Power glitches not the norm

An important lesson was learned at the offices of The Northerner last week at the expense of over $4,000 in computer equipment.

During the repair of a broken electrical socket by an employee of the physical plant, a power surge went through the circuit damaging, beyond repair, a Macintosh G4 hard drive and monitor as well as a printer.

The computer equipment was lost because the computers were not connected to surge protectors. Steve Derrick, electrical supervisor of the Physical Plant, said there was no way to know the problem was going to occur.

“It can happen at any point in time,” said Derrick. “Over time, electrical connections can come loose.”

Derrick explained problems could occur with receptacles for three reasons: the age of the receptacle, how it was installed or the type of receptacle. He believes the problem in The Northerner office occurred due to the design of the receptacle, which has two wires under one screw.

“Unless you have meters on this stuff when it happens, you can only guess,” Derrick said. “I just don’t know exactly what happened.”

Bob Bolce, associate director of the Physical Plant, said there is no reason to think the electrical system on campus is unsafe.

“The wiring is not old enough to be a problem,” Bolce said. “It can be overloaded, but a breaker is attached, so when it is overloaded, it shuts off.”

Overloading was a problem in the offices of the Student Government Association last summer. Katie Herschede, president of SGA, said members noticed a burning smell at times.

“We were notified we only had one circuit coming into the offices,” said Herschede. “Since so much equipment is on it, it caused it to overheat.”

Bolce said it was the equipment, not the wiring itself that overheated. He also said it is possible to add another circuit to an office, but that is dependent on whether another circuit is available. Bringing new circuits into a building is costly, he said.

Both Derrick and Bolce said there are things people can do to keep the number of problems down. For example, don’t overload the circuits with refrigerators, microwaves, coffee makers, as well as the other office equipment.

Don’t use equipment discarded by other offices. Always use surge protectors and always report problems, even broken receptacles, to the physical plant right away.

“We respond to all complaints,” Bolce said. “Any problems, we repair. As far as I know, there’s nothing unsafe on this campus.”