Overnight outage affects four dorms across campus

In this Feb. 4 photo, UConn police block off a section of Fairfield Way as university workers attempt to fix an outage. Another power outage occurred on Feb. 25 and affected students living along North Eagleville Road and Route 195. (Zhelun Lang/Daily Campus)

For some, the morning of Thursday, Feb. 25 began with a strange noise of a reset alarm clock. For others, their lights went out during a late night cram-session. But most students probably woke up to morning whispers or social media messages about an incident that passed unnoticed in the night.

Just before 1:30 a.m., the high winds of the thunderstorm damaged circuit #3, which caused power outages along North Eagleville Road and Route 195, including North Campus, Towers, Husky Village and East Campus.

The exact cause of the outage remains unknown, but natural forces during storms often cause damage to the power grid. Windswept debris, falling branches and direct lightning strikes are common storm hazards that are not easily preventable.

“In this particular outage, there were no electrical fires or electrical emergencies reported to the fire department,” Deputy Chief Gregory Priest said. The UConn Fire Department (UCFD) did assist, Priest said, by playing a “supportive role to our partners in Facilities.”

Their first objective was to establish situational awareness by becoming a part of an Incident Management System (IMS). The IMS provides a structure for centralized information distribution and decision making.

In this case, UCFD’s Command Staff and Office of Emergency Management responded to the Division for Public Safety’s Emergency Operations Center.

“The staff that make up the Emergency Operations Team is dependent on the incident,” said Christopher Renshaw Captain of the OEM. The roster for a laboratory outage may be different than the one for a residence hall blackout.

The next support step includes, “verifying the function of emergency egress lights, and ensuring that the fire alarm systems are functioning on battery power,” Priest said.

To repower the circuit, Facilities Operations and Building Services (FOBS) was contacted by the Fire department and immediately activated their Emergency Response Team. They worked side by side the crew of Eversource, the utility company that helps power the university.

“It was a fantastic effort and partnership between our crews,” Associate Vice President of FOBS Mike Jednak said, “especially in the wee small hours of the night.”

The partnership worked for four hours until 5:30 am, when they fully restored power to the circuit. No other significant issues were caused by the power outage, and classes began as scheduled.

Despite the unpredictable nature of lightning storms, FOBS performs, “preventative maintenance to the entire electrical infrastructure to minimize risk,” Jednak said.

To help incident response, FOBS has a phone request service, the Work Order Control Center (WOCC).

For emergencies, students should call in a Facilities Emergency to 860-486-3113.  According to the WOCC’s webpage, “an immediate or imminent threat to life, or severe property damage,” is assigned Priority code #1, the highest level of request.


Mike Tommins is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at michael.tommins@uconn.edu.