Campus reviews March power outage causes, response

By Diane Ainsworth, Public Affairs

03 April 2002 |

In an effort to avoid future campus power outages and to find ways of reducing disruption caused when blackouts do occur, Chancellor Berdahl has commissioned two committees to review the campus’s recent experience and to offer recommendations for the future.

Established in the aftermath of a campuswide electrical power outage on March 7, the committees will carry out their analyses over the next six weeks, before submitting recommendations to the chancellor.

Review of causes
One group, led by Jack McCredie, chief information officer, has been assigned to look at the causes of last month’s outage. Comprised of six faculty members and administrators, it has been asked to commission a review of the campus electrical power infrastructure by external consultants.

The review will include an analysis of the campus’s electrical power systems and backup capabilities, McCredie said. The team’s mission is to identify steps the campus can take to avoid power outages when possible and to reduce damages and the scope of incidents when outages are unavoidable.

Review of response
A second review group will be headed by Assistant Chancellor John Cummins and Charles Upshaw, chief of staff for Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Gray.

That team will evaluate the response of all units impacted by the latest outage — the UC Police Department, Physical Plant–
Campus Services, Information Systems and Technology, Public Affairs, the Office of Laboratory Animal Care, and offices that oversee student life and housing and dining services — and will recommend how to improve response to such situations in the future.

“These units and individuals across campus worked tirelessly on the night of March 7th, and throughout the next day, to ensure safety, restore power and return the campus to regular operations as quickly and smoothly as possible,” Berdahl noted in his March 19 memo to the campus. “Our goal now is to use the lessons learned … to improve and enhance operations in the future.”

Preliminary information
The power outage, which occurred just after 5 p.m. on March 7, plunged the entire campus into darkness for about six hours. By 11 p.m., power to some campus buildings had been restored, and by 1 a.m., a significant portion of the campus was back to normal. However, two dozen campus buildings remained without power until the following afternoon.

The cause of the outage was traced to moisture that had entered underground switching station 4, a subterranean station on the east side of the campus, said Paul Black, senior engineer in Physical Plant –Campus Services.

Moisture intrusion is a common problem in underground structures, he said. But a recent increase of moisture intrusion at the switching station may have contributed to the failure on March 7. Campus steamfitters later discovered a significant leak in a steam line.

“The outage tripped two circuit breakers at substation no. 5, which severed the tie between the campus and the PG&E power source,” Black said. “The fault that caused this outage also forced the co-generation plant off-line.


Home | Search | Archive | About | Contact | More News

Copyright 2002, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.

Comments? E-mail