The University of Dallas recently experienced power outages the week of Oct. 9, just before midterms week. The outages were caused by a squirrel and resulted in a four-day weekend for faculty and students.
The power first went out on Saturday, Oct. 1. Facilities discovered that a squirrel had shorted out the transformer in front of the condos.
Executive Vice President of Enrollment Dr. John Plotts — who oversees facilities — said: “When there is a surge in electrical power it will ‘trip’ a fuse. This means that power is cut off to the electrical line to prevent fire or electrocution. The surge was caused by a squirrel ‘arcing’ the electricity thereby creating a dangerous electrical situation that caused the fuse to ‘trip’ (safety measure). When the fuse tripped, the residual impact was the burning out of several UD owned electrical fuses.”
The next step was to get in touch with the power company, Oncor. Once the call was made, Oncor came to campus to check the incoming power.
Russell Greene, chief of the UD police department, said, “They had to get the squirrel off the line, stop the short that he caused, and pull the squirrel off the wires.”
The next course of action was to turn the power back on and make sure everything started back up normally. Everything seemed to be running smoothly, however, that changed the following Wednesday.
Greene said, “The problem is that by Wednesday, we started having stuff that failed.
Some of the equipment inside the police department was affected by a power surge resulting from the outage and repairs.
“It’s not just one big wire that goes to every building, there’s all these different circuits as your needs change. So that’s why some floors had power, some didn’t, air conditioning draws a lot of power, that was all down. But when it starts back up, it’s like a river going downstream, and so we had a power surge and it fried my stuff,” he said.
In order to get the power back up and running as quickly as possible, an outside contractor was brought in.
Plotts said, “We called Oncor and a high voltage contractor (Shermco) to meet on our campus along with our facilities team to replace our blown fuses and restore power to the campus.”
The power was then cut to check for problems, resulting in the campus being closed on Thursday Oct. 7 and the cancellation of classes.
Plotts was responsible for making sure that the problem was diagnosed and addressed in the best way possible. He said, “I provided information to the academic leadership so they could make an informed decision about classes.”
Although unexpected power issues are always a possibility, UD is prepared to effectively tackle any problems that may come up. Plotts said, “There is always a possibility of power disruptions. However, we do our best to address the issues as quickly as possible when they occur.”
Both faculty and students alike enjoyed a four-day weekend as a result of the campus closure. For others, however, the outage came as an inconvenience.
Undeclared sophomore Alan Davila said: “I was happy about being alerted as to when I could expect the issue to be resolved. I was just hoping to get a bit more information as to what caused it in the first place.”
Another student reiterated his gratitude for the unexpected break from classes.
Clement Andi-Edet, a sophomore computer science major, said: “It wasn’t so bad. I was still able to do all the stuff I had to do. The best thing was all my outlets were working.”
Adjunct Instructor of theology, Mr. Nathaniel Maresh was naturally surprised by the power outage, but not by the administration’s response.
“Well, the outage surprised me. But, the administrators did what they had to do and closed down the campus for the urgent repair work. I’m glad that things are back up and running so that we can proceed with ‘business as usual,” said Maresh.
Dr. Mark Petersen, associate professor of history, said: “The outage was an inconvenience, of course, and it was unfortunate that it led to the cancellation of my classes that day. In the end, [that] meant I had some time to focus on other work (grading, mainly) and the whole experience was a reminder of the importance of flexibility and a good sense of humor!”
As of now, things have returned to their normal flow and so far there have been no major issues with power or electricity on campus.