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DU prices emergency generators for all buildings in wake of two-day power outage

Blame placed on Entergy transformer this time, cable breaks the times before

By Taj Odem, Editor-in-chief, and Cheryl Daniel, managing editor
On March 1, 2019

NEW ORLEANS (March 1, 2019) – Dillard University is pricing new emergency backup power generators for all campus buildings after the latest power outage this academic year, according to Adonis Woods, director of facilities management.

In the meantime, students upset about lost groceries and the extreme inconvenience caused by the 23-hour power outage Feb. 17-19 expressed those concerns Wednesday evening.

The disruption occurred after a transformer failed and had to be replaced, according to Anne Bealer, a Gentilly area representative for Entergy New Orleans.

Woods attributed previous outages this academic year to underground cables being cut accidentally during flood mitigation construction on campus.

In all cases, Woods said, the university had no way to predict the circumstances. Even so, in addition to considering the purchase of generators for all campus buildings, Woods said the university is looking at ways to make any future outages easier for faculty and students.

Woods noted that the Student Union and the Professional Schools Building, the newest buildings on campus, already have generators.

At a general body meeting held by the Student Government Association on Wednesday, about 50 students were present to hear administrators explain what happened and to discuss their concerns. Additionally, mass communication freshman Shania Campbell of New Orleans offered a proposal to address student concerns. Her plan included:

  • Reimbursement for lost perishable food items at a flat rate of $40 each because students said it’s hard to document that you’ve lost groceries when you didn’t keep the receipts. Campbell said the university should send Entergy the bill.
  • She asked that Residential Life prepare for emergencies by setting up a cooling lounge in each dorm with coolers for students who need to refrigerate medicines and by purchasing battery-operated fans and flashlights with batteries ready for distribution to students upon request.
  • Campbell’s proposal also recommended installation of emergency lighting in residential halls.

A trail of DU message alerts by text and email started before dawn Monday, Feb. 18, that a power outage was under way. A 7:22 a.m. email reported campus would open at noon. Then three more emails were sent to report closure all day Monday; a delay in the time power was supposed to have been returned; and precautions students needed to take. The messages continued Tuesday with power being restored, classes canceled and power being shut off again.

An email from President Walter Kimbrough on Tuesday, Feb. 19, explained that Entergy was able to identify the problem of the broken transformer around 11 a.m. Monday. He said a replacement was brought from Hammond, but it was not the appropriate one, causing additional delays until a second replacement could be brought in and installed.

Entergy teams worked through the night to replace the transformer and had the power restored by 6:47 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18. However, that left the Internet and phone connections to be restored. And the disruption delayed completion of midterm exams and posting of midterm grades by two days.

William Anderson, an Entergy worker interviewed on campus, said, “The Gentilly community has constantly had power issues due to its infrastructure. After [Hurricane] Katrina, Gentilly was cleaned up, but no one took a look at the infrastructure issues of this community.”

Anderson continued, “Hopefully, Entergy can use some of their resources” to resolve the problem more permanently “without rooting up electrical poles and wires.”

Woods said the university handled the situation the best way they knew how.

“We prepared for the worst we knew of,” said Woods. “The concept of the transformer going out was not thought of until it was too late. Since this experience, the facilities team has new steps and tips to take make the next time easier for faculty and students – if there is a next time.”

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