Recent power outage leads to $100,000 in building damage

Courtesy of Lin Chai

In response to a high-voltage switch failure that occurred near the Genomics building last Saturday, Oct. 13, the UCR Facilities Management team was forced to temporarily shut down power to nearly 30 buildings across campus.

The power outage was caused by a failure in the electrical switch located near the Genomics building. A generator was used to power the building over the weekend, but the Facilities Management team still needed to replace the switch.

Management decided to temporarily shut power off from several of the buildings on campus last Tuesday, Oct. 16. Power was temporarily shut down from 12 p.m. to 12:30 p.m.. Some of those buildings included heavily-used facilities such as the Anderson School of Management, the Biological Sciences building, the Botanic Gardens and Chemical Sciences building.

Prior to the power outage, students and faculty were asked to properly shut down devices and instruments in the buildings that would be affected by the temporary outage.

Despite the attempts to properly deal with the matter, the power outage still caused major inconveniences and damages as some lectures were delayed, electronic devices were nonfunctional during classes and laboratory equipment was damaged heavily.

According to Dr. Richard Kondrat, the head of the spectrometry facility at UCR, there was some confusion as to which buildings would be without power. The power outage never took place in the Chemical Sciences building as was initially reported. This forced his department to shut down their instruments unnecessarily, resulting in considerable damage to laboratory equipment.

“The consequence of this shutdown in our lab is that one of the instruments failed to start up again,” he said.

The instrument he referred to is the Liquid Chromatograph Time of Flight (LCTOF), which is used by students to analyze a variety of samples in their classes and is used two hours a day from Monday to Friday.

Dr. Kondrat said one of the pumps that powers up the instrument failed to work after his department was forced to shut it down during the power outage.

“The problem is a pump that will not start up,” he said. “This is not a simple pump that people would have their own back up for.”

Dr. Kondrat described the pump as, “a set of spinning blades that moves air out of the instrument to allow it to operate under a high vacuum.” It functions very much like a jet engine and it powers the LCTOF. Without the pump, the instrument will remain unusable. Consequently, the pump could cost as little as $3,000 and as much as $16,000 to replace it.

The damage made to the lab equipment was only the tip of the iceberg, however. The costs of repairing and replacing the failed switch were far greater.

Ken Mueller, director of the Physical Plant at UC Riverside, provided further information about the additional expenses that incurred as a result of the incident.

“The cost will be around $100,000,” he said in an interview with the Highlander. “It’s expensive.”

The replacement of the electrical switch and additional work hours for the workers were among the primary costs of the incident, stated Dr. Kondrat.

Despite the costs, Mueller ultimately called the handling of the situation a “success,” stating that the department dealt with the situation fairly handedly in a short amount of time.

“Electrical failures happen,” said Mueller. He ultimately reassured that the department constantly performs routine maintenance on the electrical systems, insuring prompt repairs to any electrical failures that might occur in the near future.

 

 

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