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Campus-wide blackout happens second time

By Dustin Porter
Managing Editor

March 29, 2012

Photo by Nick Phillips
University workers anaylze the power outage problem on March 14.

The campus experienced another power failure on March 14, leading to a four-hour shutdown for all utilities and facilities on university property.

This included all of the residence halls, faculty buildings and the Chancellor's Residence. Apartment complexes were not affected.

Steve Martin, the assistant vice chancellor for Facilities and Management, said the problem dealt with Progress Energy's side of the transformers located in an electrical substation on the outskirts of Grace P. Johnson stadium.

There are four transformers supplying power to the campus. The university is responsible for two of the transformers and Progress Energy is responsible for the other two.

There is a sensor on every transformer which measures the amount of fuses and volts the transformer is receiving and sending. When the sensor senses too many volts coming into the transformer, it automatically shuts the transformer off to protect it from a power surge.

Martin said the problem was Progress Energy's sensors were too sensitive and they kept flipping the main breaker responsible for the power all across campus.

"It's just like the main breaker found in houses," Martin said. "When the main breaker flips, everything shuts down."

Martin added it took Progress Energy four hours to fix the problem because they had to replace two transformers, a control panel and a sub-breaker.

Chancellor Kyle R. Carter said UNCP had no choice but to power down the campus from 8 p.m. until 12 a.m.

"If the power went off in your house, and the power company informed you the only solution to permanently fix the problem would be to power down the house for a prolonged period time, there is nothing you can do," Chancellor Carter said. "We had to power down the campus at the time we did because otherwise there would have been huge complications in having a normal operating day on Friday."

Safety first

During emergencies, the Department of Police and Public Safety responds based on the time of the emergency and the situation.

In a power outage, it sends out officers to the highest populated areas of students.

Since a power outage ocurred around noon earlier that day, the James B. Chavis University Center recieved most of the offices.

One student was trapped in the elevator inside of the business building for approximately 40 minutes, according to Sgt. Stephen Brooks.

Brooks said when emergencies like that happen the University Police department responds promptly and swiftly.

"Ensuring the safety of our students is our highest priority," Sgt. Brooks said.

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