Power Outage Affects Many on Post
Physical plant staff at work well before daybreak receive flashlights to assist them in maintaining a fire watch. -- VMI Photo by John Robertson IV.
LEXINGTON, Va., Aug. 3, 2011 – VMI buildings along academic row went dark earlier today due to a scheduled power outage. VMI’s electric utility, Dominion Virginia Power, upgraded the existing system with built-in capacity for expansion while rerouting electrical lines to support South Institute Hill construction and the accompanying traffic light.
Dominion’s crews were present on post for weeks leading up to the outage doing work that included setting poles, running power lines, and installing conduit for underground lines.
The 12-hour outage, which began at 5 a.m., resulted in a day off for many VMI employees and a longer day than usual for others.
Supporting the operation throughout were physical plant employees, who began preparing for the outage well in advance.
“We’re neck deep into it right now,” said Larry Camper, chief of maintenance and operations, prior to the outage. “We’ve been going through and planning the process since last week.”
HVAC personnel took the first step on the day of the outage by shutting down air conditioning systems from the HVAC operations center and from on site around 4 a.m. Once that was accomplished, electricians began shutting down power to buildings one by one until all affected buildings were off line. At that point, Dominion was able to drop its power connection without any risk of damage to the electrical systems.
“This is a fairly simple outage,” said Camper. “Roughly one-third of post is being shut down, and having it all planned out helps.”
Thanks to a large diesel generator powering Nichols Engineering Building, VMI’s Department of Information Technology was able to keep the phones and networks functioning across post. Other generators were in place to power emergency systems, including one in Maury-Brooke Hall that helped to maintain lab experiments.
“We’ll be checking the generators throughout the day,” said Camper. “The first few hours are critical with the generators.” Personnel were on hand to ensure those first few hours went smoothly. The generators are capable of running up to 15 hours unattended, more than enough to cover the anticipated outage time.
Working with whatever light was available, be it daylight, emergency lighting, or flashlights, housekeeping staff supported the operation by maintaining a fire watch in affected buildings throughout the outage since the fire alarm system was down.
Physical plant employees will remain on hand until the power supply is returned .
– John Robertson IV