Over 90 academic buildings and dormitories experienced a 30-minute power outage from 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on October 26.
According to Hebert Langlois, Chief Engineer of the Office of the Physical Plant (O.P.P.), an off-campus fire in the town of Andover prompted the Fire Department of Andover and National Grid, Andover’s primary electricity provider, to terminate all electricity on campus. Though Langlois was initially unaware of this cause, the O.P.P. restored power by using the emergency generator.
Langlois said, “I was told the outage was a result of a fire in Andover off-campus. The Fire Department asked National Grid to kill the power to this area. We were unaware of the cause of the outage at the time so we began the process of switching over to our emergency generator. Once the generator was running and all the switching was complete we were able to restore power to campus. We remained on the generator until 3:30 p.m. when we switched back to the utility.
With students and faculty relying on internet connection for online learning, the power outage affected the ability of classes to proceed normally. Langlois emphasized the O.P.P.’s efforts to minimize the duration of the outage.
“We do our best to limit and schedule outages to have a minimal impact on the PA community. We are very conscious of the fact that the pandemic has caused many people to depend on their electronic devices. When we have a scheduled outage many people are involved in making the decision of date, time, and duration,” said Langlois.
Though Hadrian Reppas ’22 did not experience any inconveniences caused by the outage, he noted initial network discrepancies while trying to access All-School Meeting (ASM). According to Reppas, such issues with Wi-Fi were fixed in time for afternoon classes.
Reppas said, “I didn’t have a class for the first period, so I was free until ASM and the power came on before ASM started, but the Wi-Fi for me still was cutting out. So, I ended up using my cellular data, which was fine for me. Still, I’m sure if you didn’t have… good reception, that might have caused issues for joining ASM. By the time the afternoon classes rolled around, the Wi-Fi was back on, so I didn’t have any issue joining any of my classes.”
In response to the power outage, several instructors recorded the virtual meetings for students who were unable to attend. Kassie Archambault, Instructor in Russian, added that even though the situation cut the class time by twenty minutes, she connected with her students by being flexible with the remaining time.
“I don’t normally record my classes, but I recorded the Zoom and posted it to our canvas page for anyone who still didn’t have power and wanted to watch the class afterward… It didn’t affect too much—just that we lost twenty minutes of speaking time [in Russian] in class… In terms of the dorm, [I was] just letting [the students] know that everyone’s in this situation, that when the Wi-Fi comes back on, join the class if possible, or email your teachers, but we’re all in this situation and people are going to be flexible about it,” said Archambault.
According to Langlois, the temporary power outage also prevented heating facilities from functioning properly in academic buildings. Langlois found the assistance of the power plant staff and the trades to be particularly helpful.
Langlois said, “It is important to know that when the power goes out we also lose our steam plant. This results in a loss of steam generation until we are able to restore power. I am fortunate to have a well trained staff that is able to respond to these situations in a safe and timely manner. The power plant staff is assisted by the mechanical and electrical trades who provide us with information to best respond to the issue at hand as well as support in the field.”
However, not all dorms had the same level of communication, which according to Reppas, could have led to more challenges for students submitting major assignments or taking assessments.
“I think they probably could have done a better job notifying us. I don’t remember receiving an email or not even any of my house counselors talking to us about it, and thankfully, it didn’t cause any issues for me. But, I can imagine if you’re doing something important that could have a real effect,” said Reppas.
Stephen Russell, an Instructor for Statistics and Computer Science living in Alumni House, hoped that, with virtual classes, Andover would have notified everyone on campus about the situation.
“Now that most classes are being taught online, and there’s a significant portion of students who need power to attend their classes, it seems more important to be able to notify faculty/staff/administrators about such issues. While I don’t think there’s a good way to rectify students missing class because of a power outage, it would be good for everyone on campus to be aware of what had happened,” wrote Russell.