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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Two power outages in Village due to traffic accidents involving power lines

Published: January 14, 2005
Section: News

In the weeks before winter break, two brief power outages temporarily plunged the Village residence hall into darkness. No other campus buildings were affected by the outages, which occurred on Tues., Nov. 30 and Sat., Dec. 11.

Both outages were caused by car accidents on South Street.

The first outage, which lasted approximately fifteen minutes, occurred when a car hit a power pole near the intersection of Main and South streets. Associate Vice President for University Services Mark Collins told the Hoot that the damage to the power conduit was severe enough that it caused a failure of both the main and backup lines. Students living in the Village were left without power until the damage could be repaired.

The second outage occurred when a car hit a power pole on the Weston end of South Street. The damage to the line was less severe then the first outage and power was automatically switched over to the backup line within thirty seconds, according to Collins.

Collins said that the power lines are set up such that if one line goes down, power can automatically switch to a second backup line using a device called a Recloser Mechanism. This is what occurred in the second outage.

During the outages, emergency power sources automatically illuminated hallways, stairs and bathrooms with safety lighting, and magnetic fire doors automatically closed. Emergency power also allowed phones and network jacks to stay active but there was no other power provided in individual rooms.

In order to open the Village on schedule, power was routed from South Street rather then from the campus power grid. Collins stated that to prevent such outages in the future, Brandeis is looking to integrate the Village into the main campus distribution grid.

Since each of the outages in the Village was relatively short in duration, no notification was sent to students. Collins said that students will be notified via email or phone broadcast message any time there is a situation that will cause an outage of more then thirty minutes, such as the outages in North Quad last semester. Safety is our number one concern, and we want to keep the students aware of what is going on, he said.
Brandeis power is provided by Nstar, a private electric and gas utility which services nearly 1.4 million Massachusetts residential and business customers.