Transfer station failure leaves most of campus without power

The power outage that left most of Tufts’ campus in the dark yesterday was caused by a failure in a transfer station located near Dowling Hall, according to Dean of Student Affairs Bruce Reitman.

The power failure began on Sunday afternoon, and electricity was restored early Monday morning.

The transfer station, where Tufts receives electricity from the power company National Grid, serves most of the university’s academic and residential buildings. After the power went out, Tufts workers brought flashlights and glowsticks to affected dormitories and small generators to the Dewick-MacPhie Dining Hall. Students went there, as well as to the Cousens Gym, to wait for the lights to go back on around campus.

Meanwhile, police cars and other emergency response vehicles lined College Avenue as officers secured Anderson Hall. According to Reitman, there was an experiment being conducted in the building at the time of the outage, and when the fume hood stopped working, the police were called in to monitor the situation.

“[The police] just wanted to make sure [that the electrical failure] was not creating any dangerous situations,” he said.

Medford Police Officer Richard Lebert, a patrolman who was among the responders, said that it is standard operating procedure to check buildings with scientific materials in the event of  a power outage, comparing the large police presence to a test drill.

“[Officers] just have to break out the book and go all the way down the line,” he said, referring to the listed procedures put in place for such events. As such, he said that they were mostly there to “take all precautions [and] cover all the bases.”

Students were formally alerted to the power outage via the emergency response software Send Word Now at around 7:30 p.m. Reitman said that while the system is normally reserved for emergencies, it seemed like a practical way to reach students, given that many have registered their cell phones and would be able to receive the message even if the electrical failure left them without computer access.

“It was basically the only reliable way to get the word out to everybody,” he said. “[But] it was a judgment call because it’s not the kind of emergency that Send Word Now was devised for.”

The notification blasted out by Send Word Now had a choppy feel, with incomplete sentences and even an abbreviated word. Reitman said this was because the program limits the amount of characters in each message. “It’s designed for short, important messages, as opposed to an announcement thing such as this,” he said.

According to Reitman, around 15 additional TUPD officers came in to work yesterday to assure that everything ran smoothly on campus. TUPD, as well as other select buildings, such as the Dana Laboratory, had electricity from generators. The Tufts telecommunications system was also protected by a generator, according to Reitman.

Reitman said that the last power failure caused by a similar problem happened during the summer of 2002. The outage lasted for several days.