Day-long Power outage hits Geneseo

At 9:30 a.m. last Thursday, Geneseo experienced power outages in academic buildings and residence halls across campus.

While the electricity in most buildings was restored within a few hours, Jones Residence Hall, Milne Library and Lauderdale Health Center remained without full power until generators were brought in.

According to George Stooks, assistant vice president for facilities and planning, the outage was caused by "a failure of a couple of the connections in the underground high voltage system."

Although each building affected is equipped with a backup generator, the generators are intended to handle only emergency lighting. After determining that the backup generators would not provide enough power to fully support the affected buildings, the New York State Office of General Services ordered generators from Batavia, Syracuse and Clifton Park. An emergency meeting was held at 1 p.m. to notify administrators of the situation at hand.

"The buildings that were on generators were Milne Library, Jones Residence Hall and Lauderdale," Stooks said. "We did have, for a period of time on Thursday morning … four other buildings that stayed without power for approximately four hours or so. Those were Greene Science Building, Newton Hall, Brodie Hall and Erwin Hall."

"We brought in one primary contractor, M. Scher and Son, and we used O'Connell Electric out of Rochester to support [the generators]," Stooks said.

By 9 p.m. on Thursday, generator power had been restored to Jones. Lauderdale received steady generator power between 10 and 10:30 p.m., and Milne was stabilized shortly after midnight. A team of electricians worked throughout the night to address the issue, restoring full power on Saturday evening.

Celia Easton, dean of residential living and her staff in the Office of Residence Life worked throughout Thursday to address issues related to the outage in Jones.

"At our emergency meeting at [1 p.m.], while we were happy to know that the generators were on their way, there were a couple of things that we needed to be reassured of in order to assist the students in Jones Hall," Easton said. "Jones Hall has an emergency backup generator. That kept emergency lights on and it kept the fire alarm system active. If the fire alarm system is not active in any residence hall, I need to evacuate the hall, because people can't sleep there."

Believing that the exterior locks on Jones would fail within a few hours, Residence Life manually opened a door near the Jones service desk where students could enter and exit the building. They later learned, however, that the back-up generator would support the locks.

"People were allowed to go in and out as much as they liked but we were only going to be able to monitor that one door," Easton said. "The [residence directors] from other buildings were taking shifts to check people as they came into the building."

Students were encouraged to stay with friends since there was no heat or electricity in the rooms or bathrooms and to let the Jones staff members know where they would be staying in case of an emergency. Residence Life also offered students the opportunity to stay in medical or extra rooms in other halls should they not have another place to stay.

"Students were just extremely cooperative … helping each other out and that worked out very well," Easton said.