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Power outage on St. John’s campus officially declared over

By Mandy Cook

Power outages on the St. John's campus recently triggered the response of the university's Emergency Management Plan, culminating in a successful resolution for the approximately 1,400 students affected.

On Friday, March 2, the second power outage in a week occurred at Memorial's residence complex, as well as the MUN Childcare Centre. The outages were caused by the malfunction of a 40-year-old cable that was scheduled to be replaced at the end of the semester.

Student Housing provided study and lounge space, food and beverages and outlets for charging laptops and cell phones in the University Centre for students throughout the day. Email communication plus posters in individual residence houses kept residents apprised of the situation as it unfolded. Meal service continued in the Main Dining Hall for all meal-plan holders.

As of 5 p.m. on Friday, the Emergency Operations Control Group (EOCG), headed by Kent Decker, vice-president (finance and administration), initiated its response to the outages affecting Paton College and Burton's Pond apartments.

Residents of Paton College were notified that they could remain in their buildings due to rotating power provided by generators, except the residents of Hatcher House. Students and their families living in the family residence of Baltimore Court were re-located to accommodations off site. The approximately 400 residents of Burton's Pond apartments and 81 students from Hatcher House were notified that temporary accommodations would be provided for them on campus.

By 7:30 p.m., the Red Cross had delivered and set up 600 cots in the Physical Education gymnasium and the Field House as a backup should Paton College and Burton's Pond apartments lose power overnight.

As Facilities Management crews worked into the evening, primary power was restored to all buildings in the student residence complex and the MUN Childcare Centre with one exception. Hatcher House in Paton College was serviced by emergency power until the evening of Sunday, March 4, when primary power was restored.

By 11 p.m. on Friday, March 2, primary power was restored to most of the residence complex. Students in the temporary accommodations were given the option to remain in the gymnasium or return to their building. In all, 30 students stayed overnight with the last person leaving the Physical Education gymnasium at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 3.

Facilities Management crews then scheduled two daytime power outages on Saturday, March 3, and Sunday, March 4, in order to complete the repairs which were finalized at approximately 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. While there were scheduled power downs on Saturday and Sunday, students were not required to leave their residences.

Karen Alexander, emergency management co-ordinator at Memorial, said there were approximately 180 people onsite during the emergency response.
"To ensure the safety and the provision of shelter and feeding services, 130 Memorial staff and volunteers worked in collaboration with approximately 60 individuals from external partners," she said. "The partners include the Canadian Red Cross, who involved 47 volunteers over the four-day time frame."

The approximate cost of the emergency response was $200,000. That figure includes staffing and resources utilized by a number of Memorial units and associated units such as Facilities Management, Housing, Food and Conferences, Computing and Communications, The Works, the Emergency Management Office, Human Resources, Student Affairs and Services, the QEII Library, the Division of Marketing and Communications and the Office of the Vice-President (Finance and Administration). Costs incurred ranged from mechanical and electrical repairs to the purchase of extra food and beverages to the rental of freezer trucks and generators. The Red Cross fee is also included in the $200,000.

Mr. Decker officially declared the power outage event over at 2:30 p.m. on Monday, March 5.

"The right people were in place to make the necessary decisions within the Emergency Operations Control Group and the right people were in the field executing the emergency plan," said Mr. Decker. "From our housing staff to our Facilities Management team to our administrative units, the outcome was a tangible demonstration of the care and concern Memorial University has for its students."