Power outage sweeps across campus

Central campus was plunged into darkness for more than two hours Friday morning due to worn-out equipment in the central circuit breaker.

The outage, which was one of the longest in recent memory, began around 9:40 a.m. Power was restored to the residential colleges and other affected buildings by noon.

In the course of a routine service check on Friday, an electrician noticed a chafed wire in the central circuit breaker, Yale officials said. The power then had to be shut down so that electricians could verify the problem and repair it.

“They did what they were supposed to do,” Director of Facilities Lou Annino said. “They’re supposed to fail-safe so no one gets hurt.”

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for maintaining the faulty equipment. Annino said it was the responsibility of United Illuminating Co., a New Haven-based electricity provider, but a UI spokesman, Al Carbone, said the outage involved solely Yale personnel and equipment.

Carbone and Annino said Yale and UI coordinated their response and worked together to restore the system.

The University’s response to the brief blackout included the first use (besides tests) of the campus alert system. Maria Bouffard, the director of emergency management services, said the system was activated because a power outage is considered an emergency.

Cell phones across campus rang and buzzed at 10:50 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. with automated phone calls reporting the status of the outage. Updates were also sent by e-mail.

The residential colleges are typically the first to lose power when Yale’s grid overloads, but some classroom buildings were affected by the blackout, too. (About 300 classes meet on Friday between 9 a.m. and noon.)

Return to yaledailynews.com for updates on this breaking story.


  • Anonymous

    Can you explain more about exactly how a power outage is an emergency? Generators run the heat and lights in stairwells, and the plumbing still worked. How did the power outage put people in danger?

    If there's no better reason than what I can think of for considering the power outage an emergency, I think the definition of "emergency" ought to be reevaluated. Text messages cost money, and the unison ringing of cell-phones was disruptive in my classes. The texts weren't even informative--we already knew the lights were out, and telling us they didn't know why wasn't helpful. If people have no reason to expect that messages from the emergency system contain immediately crucial information, they might be ignored if a REAL emergency arises.

  • RediMicroWatt

    I guess the dyslexics at Untied Illuminating weren't able to read the switching manual.

  • Response to #1

    I have one good example to counter your comment:

    To the many science researchers on campus (hundreds of graduate students, postdocs, and faculty members), a power outage is a MAJOR emergency. Millions of dollars in reagents, cell lines, organisms, and such, could be lost when the electricity runs down. Priceless unique items may be lost altogether. The most expensive freezers and incubators are often linked to automatically call responsible parties, but most of us rely on campus-wide notifications for such things. If you had been in a science hall building today, you might have seen students frantically wheeling -80-degree freezers to locales with power in attempt to save their work.

    I see your comment above as yet another example of an undergrad-centric (ego-centric, perhaps) view. Think outside of your tiny box when you make such statements.

  • #1

    #3- Wow. Did you really need to add your last paragraph there? You're right, I didn't think about the scientists. I'm a humanities major, so what I keep in my refrigerator doesn't tend to be anything I couldn't just get more of at Shaw's. But did YOU ever stop to think that I wouldn't have asked the question if I weren't genuinely looking for an answer? I'm glad to know there is one, and I sincerely hope your research and equipment survived safely, because I know that such things can be expensive, and many experiments can take months or years, and a shift in temperature can be a drastic setback. I'm not so glad to know that the answer to my question had to be accompanied by such an unwarranted attack. Maybe if you paid more attention to the intricacies of language, you would have noticed the phrase "better reason" was qualified by the phrase "than what I can think of," which was a deliberate (and honest) admission of my own limited frame of reference. But then, I guess we can't expect any kind of literary (or human) sensitivity from an antisocial scientific researcher.

  • To #1

    As a humanities major, you do not appear to be too aware of the nuances of language.

    "If people have no reason to expect that messages from the emergency system contain immediately crucial information, they might be ignored if a REAL emergency arises."

    Though your comment started with a question, it continued with what can be considered, at minimum, criticism, or, at most, an attack. By the end of your comment, your initial question could easily appear to a reasonable observer as merely rhetorical.

  • YaleProf

    Presumably, over time the system can be fine-tuned, so that people who need to know about a power outage can be warned, while those who do not will not be disturbed.

    That would be more productive than an insult-fest!

  • #1

    Yes. It was critical. The whole point was to help people understand why, if my point was valid, it was an important one. I think of emergencies as very dangerous weather conditions that could result in injury or death (which a power outage would be if the heat stopped working), or even the threat of an attack of some kind. Where I come from, power outages happen pretty frequently, so it's something I have learned to take in stride and deal with, not something I consider an emergency. Moreover, although I know your research is important and expensive, and some of it will probably lead to life-saving scientific advances, having research in jeopardy isn't quite the same as the imminent threat of harm or of loss of life, which is what I had imagined the emergency messaging system would be used for telling us about. In fact, if your reasons for naming the outage an emergency are what the people running the system had in mind, I think there is still room for criticism. Not one of the messages contained information about which buildings were affected. And though that might be too long a list to send via text message or voice mail, it would still have been possible to provide a number one could call to find out which buildings were affected. Plus, since the outage started at 9:30am, I'm sure that the 10:55 text telling you that they had no information about the outage was no more helpful to worried scientists than it was to those danged pesky undergrads who were trying to learn in their discussion sections.

    So you're not wrong. It was critical. In fact, that was the point. But the criticism was deliberately tempered by the suggestion that I didn't have all the information: how could such a suggestion be rhetorical, particularly the sentence which began, "Can you explain more about…"? I don't think I've ever come across a rhetorical question thus framed. But I suppose it could happen.

    I think the problem here is the forum. People too often look for reasons to get angry and insult others who partake in this bizarre anonymous dialogue. The lack of face to face discourse makes it easy to throw in insults where none are needed. So I'm sorry you misinterpreted my first post, I'm sorry for my contribution to the unnecessary vitriol in my second post, and I hope we've both learned something. I, for one, will now know to think about all the various subsets of the Yale community, scientists included, when evaluating the effectiveness of Yale's various forms of infrastructure and communication systems. And perhaps both of us can learn to temper our snap judgments of the motives of anonymous commenters.

  • josh

    lol, you guys all had your cellphone ringers on during class? that's not good form.

    half the lights went off at the architecture school 9 hours before this power outage. was it related?

  • Anonymous

    well at least the power outage enabled some science grad students to have a cold shower. lord only knows how many morning wood wake-ups a chemist can deal with before they realize…hey, maybe i should just say "gilbert stork, you took care of everything that needs to be done in chemistry…now imma go grab a drink and grind up against a semi-aroused body." seriously, loosen up.

  • Anonymous

    yo! i had to pee when the power was out, and there was no lights in my bathroom, and it was dark as hell, and i thought the bloody mary was gunna get me or sumthin.

  • Anonymous

    I just can't believe that freezers that keep priceless samples and specimens aren't backed up by a battery or a generator like the hospital is. That just seems like a no-brainer to me.