School was canceled for both February 16 and 17, by no choice of Emporia State. Due to the dangerous windchill and overuse of heat and other utilities by ESU students and other Emporians, Emporia experienced a series of unpredicted, rolling blackouts.
Although Evergy predicted the blackouts to last no longer than 30-60 minutes, some students went nights without electricity.
“Customers are subject to further blackouts TONIGHT and tomorrow,” said the administration in an email. “They anticipate these will be longer than the 30- to 60-minute time frames.”
Although ESU is prepared with several generators, Gwen Larson, head of marketing and media at ESU, said the generator ESU relies on incases where electricity is lost failed to work, forcing the school to shut down.
“One of the things that the power outage showed us is that the process that we have in place, which is a backup generator for the data center and a switch that moved power over to the generator apparently is flawed and that switch did not switch on like it was supposed to,” said Larson. “So what happened was we lost the data center so no internet, no wireless, no network could be working on, the shared files, none of that.”
The backup switches are vital to ESU not only because they control the data center, but also because they control the SODEXO and the IT departments, said Carmen Leeds, director of the Memorial Union.
“The first priority for us (the Memorial Union) is we have to provide food. And what does that look like? Whatever the situation may be...If there's a glitch in the power, does everything fire back up like it should? Does the dish machine fire back up like it should do? The ovens come back on...But you're double checking and making sure we don't have to go to plan B, whatever that might be if something didn't work because we are required to make sure that we get everybody said they have a meal plan. We're gonna feed them.”
Another main concern for ESU as a whole is the security of the school seeing as the majority of the locks are controlled by the internet and electricity.
“You don't realize how many things are connected to the Internet. The doors opening and closing can be all automatic,” said Leeds. “So what does the power outage do to those? So you had to do a lot of thinking and troubleshooting and just making sure that buildings were secure if they needed to be or your heating and air conditioning units are all maintained...Our maintenance person had to be available to check and make sure that when we did flip to a generator that the air conditioning or heating or whatever still worked Um, that type stuff. So a lot of it just had to have a lot of people on call ready to troubleshoot if needed, because you just didn't know the full impact of what a power outage is gonna do.”
The power Outage was actually an opportunity for ESU to see what they were doing correctly, and what they could be doing better, according to Leeds.
“That was actually good to find out because we have all of this equipment and we have all these plans for redundancy of equipment.” said Leeds. “But honestly you never know for sure that there's something wrong until something goes wrong so it actually did let us learn and improve and set up some repairs to the school system.”