Andover Experiences Temporary Campus-Wide Power Outage

Over 90 academic buildings and dormitories experienced a five-minute power outage from 5:15 p.m. to 5:20 p.m. last Wednesday, December 4.

The Andover community was notified in advance of the outage by Herbert Langlois, Chief Engineer of the Office of the Physical Plant (O.P.P.). Langlois explained that while scheduled outages occur during breaks for safety-testing and general maintenance, this particular outage was unconventional due to its delayed timing.

In an email to The Phillipian, Langlois wrote, “This interruption of electrical power was planned to have the least impact on the community as possible. Scheduled power outages typically happen at least once a year for safety-testing and maintenance on the high voltage electrical infrastructure on campus. However, there has not been as many cases in the past where we faced a delay of the scheduled outage time.”

According to Langlois, National Grid, Andover’s primary electricity provider, was responsible for managing the outage. However, National Grid was unable to arrive on campus by the scheduled 3:30 p.m. time due to a recent snowstorm that caused several electrical issues in the area.

Emma Cheung ’23, who was in Eaton Cottage during the outage, found that while the initial notification of the outage worried her and her peers, the immediate restoration of power minimized the impact on students.

Cheung said, “When I first got the email…I was concerned about not having power and not having lights. I didn’t know what the heating situation was. I wasn’t sure how long it was going to go on because I was a bit confused from the two emails that were sent to us. However, it wasn’t bad at all, and it wasn’t too inconvenient. It was probably less than a minute.”

Although Hannah Dhastgeib ’22 was not on campus during the outage, she was relieved by the quick restoration of power.

“I had some worries about how I would get into the dorm, but luckily by the time I made it back from the airport, the lights had turned back on and the power was up and running. I didn’t know if my Blue Card would work because I didn’t know if the dorms would be locked or open,” said Dhastgeib.

Langlois, along with other O.P.P. staff members, supported National Grid in the outage process by operating the standby generator during safety checks and supervising the reset system once power was restored.

“The incoming power was shut down by the power plant staff as scheduled at 7:00 a.m. that morning. The power plant staff then started the 1500KW standby generator and restored power to campus until National Grid was done with checking safety that evening. This was done so outside contractors could work on the electrical system safely,” wrote Langlois.

Langlois continued, “O.P.P. had many roles. The power plant staff was responsible for the electrical switching and operation of the standby generator, the electrical and mechanical teams reset systems after power was restored, and the safety department assisted with the lock out tag out procedure.”

Quincy Cunningham ’21 noted that while he expected the power outage to last longer based on his previous experience back home, he was impressed by how O.P.P. staff members were able to minimize the outage time.

Cunningham said, “Back home, power outages like these happen a lot, and it takes more time for it to return. Because of that, I was worried that I would be sitting in my dark room for a long time. However, I was surprised by how the supervisors of the power system at Andover were able to quickly recover electricity, so I was glad.”