Widespread power outage impacts campus


No air conditioning, no Internet and no lights.

On Tuesday at 1:09 p.m., the University of Miami lost power on the Coral Gables campus for more than an hour, but students were left in the dark about the university’s status almost two hours after power was restored.

UM’s Emergency Notification Network, first tested Oct. 18, 2007, was used Tuesday to alert students that the university would remain open for classes Tuesday evening. But the text message, e-mail and phone call alerts were not received by students and faculty until after 4 p.m., which was the same delay problem that occurred in October.

Vice President of Business Services Alan Fish said that the university waited to send out the messages until 3:40 p.m. because Florida Power and Light did not provide any “conclusive answers as to where and how long the outage would last.”

“We chose the path of gathering more information rather than sending a brief message to say it was a power outage right away,” Fish said, also noting that the rumor hotline was available until 5 p.m.

Students, on the other hand, said they would have preferred immediate notification about whether classes were canceled.

Senior Sara Bomze was in Richter Library when the power went out, and she was told to evacuate because power was out in most of Florida.

“I thought that classes were canceled so I drove to Ludlum, which took me 40 minutes,” Bomze said. “Then the power went back on at 2:30 p.m. I had class at 2:50 p.m., but I didn’t know classes were resumed until 4 p.m.”

Other students agreed.

“I would have liked to get a text right away so that I could have known what was going on and what I was supposed to do,” said Mark Richardson, a junior and exchange student from Sydney whose 2 p.m. class was canceled.

The power outage was not an emergency, but if there had been a bomb threat or school shooting Fish said he is confident that the school’s emergency system, which will not be re-tested until next October, would have pulled through.

If the university had wanted to send out an alert during the power outage, Fish said that the university would have used its generators.

Fish also commented on the fact that technology isn’t always reliable – some people couldn’t use their cell phones during yesterday’s power outage – and he added that all members of the crisis decision team use satellite phones to communicate if cell phone towers aren’t working. In those cases, the crisis decision team would notify the UM Police Department of any problem on campus, and then UMPD would alert students using loudspeakers.

Although power was restored speedily because the university is on the same power grid as Doctors Hospital, the blood drive for Greek Week was down for almost an hour and a half, said Community Blood Drive area director Alex Martinez. Martinez also noted that the drive lost 35 to 40 blood donors and seven platelet donors due to the outage.

Student Government voting also went down for more than two hours. The Elections Commission has decided to extend polling days until Thursday, said Megan Jones, head of the Elections Commission.

Some students have raised concerns about possible problems with their vote due to the outage, but Jones said that the commission doesn’t deal with things that are out of their control.

“If people were going to vote they should vote,” Jones said. “There’s nothing we can do about power outages.”

Chelsea Kate Isaacs and Kevin Coleman contributed to this article.

Karyn Meshbane may be contacted at k.meshbane@umiami.edu.

To Know:

Students may still vote for SG elections Thursday in the Breezeway from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The university’s Emergency Notification Network was upgraded in 2007 to include text messaging. The 120,000 points of contact were made with 90 percent of the student body.