Monday, April 04, 2016
Communicating When You Don’t Know
You'd still have to decide what the message was, of course.
We don't cancel classes for power failures. Last Friday the power went out in the middle of my lecture, and we just opened the door to let in enough light to (barely) see the chalkboard. The emergency lights came on after a minute, and the power was restored after about 10 minutes. There was another power failure on Sunday, so I had to reboot my compute when I came in today.
Last quarter I got stuck in an elevator during a power outage, and found out that the dispatch center can't handle emergency calls from that many elevators stuck at once—they never answered the phone. Luckily the elevator was stuck at a floor, rather than between floors, so could be opened manually.
Our campus servers are on a UPS, so there is no intrinsic limitation on our ability to send out emergency text messages UNLESS they all have to go through our communications office. The phone system is in that room, so it should work along with other emergency systems. In addition, all top staff (including IT) have college cell phones.
As for closing campus, that is above my pay grade. We sometimes overreact when they have too long to think about it, but are slow to act in the case you describe. We had one like yours, where it turned out a transformer needed to be replaced, and the general rule was that you carried on if you could but there was no penalty for students who couldn't get to campus because of traffic snarls. (If two or three traffic signals are out, getting to our campus gets quite difficult for students or faculty.) Power came back about the time they were thinking about canceling the next class.
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A small emergency generator for the PA system and any internal intercom system would be more elegant.