A disruption to Penn's electrical distribution prompted the widespread Feb. 4 power outage that affected the Quad, 1920 Commons, and Harnwell College House.
Penn Facilities and Real Estate Services Executive Director Faramarz Vakili wrote to The Daily Pennsylvanian that Penn's electrical team, alongside subcontractors, “promptly responded” to address the disruption, which occurred around 6:15 p.m. yesterday. He said that power across all buildings was restored by 4:20 a.m. on Feb. 5.
Vakili said that power returned to Harnwell, Commons, ZBT, ATO, and Garage 14 on 3801 Spruce St. by 11:50 p.m. “Most” of the Quad and Steinberg Conference Center had power restored by 3:49 a.m, while power in Butcher and Speakman Halls within the Quad was restored at 4:20 am, he added.
A spokesperson from the University's main energy supplier, PECO, wrote in an email to the DP on Monday that PECO did not receive any outreach from the University regarding the power outage, and as a result no teams were dispatched to campus.
“We never received a notification of the meter having issues, and no one ever reported the outage,” the PECO spokesperson said.
The same of area campus affected by the blackout had experienced “other small outages” in the past, Harnwell Faculty Director Kent Bream wrote in a message to residents while the latest outage was ongoing. Bream implied the issue was related to the substation — the main part of the electrical system used by the affected buildings — which was recently moved to a new location.
Penn Business Services Director of Communications and External Relations Barbara Lea-Kruger wrote in a statement to the DP that Penn Residential Services implemented emergency plans during the outage, which involved staffing impacted buildings, assisting students with disabilities, and communicating updates to residents.
“As we do anytime there is an event such as this we will review our plans to see if any changes need to be made,” Lea-Kruger said.
Penn Dining took action to preserve refrigerated food from the impacted cafes, moving many items to Houston Hall in order to reduce food loss, Lea-Kruger added. Despite these efforts, some perishables at Commons and Gourmet Grocer were compromised, requiring menu changes and a temporary closure of Commons for restocking from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
In the hour after a section of campus lost power, Residential Services sent an email to affected residents stating that they were investigating the outage along with PECO. However, a spokesperson for PECO told the DP on Feb. 4 that they had not received reports from the University about the power outage. The spokesperson attributed the disruption to “internal issues” at Penn.
“I honestly think they handled it about as well as they could have,” Engineering sophomore and Harnwell resident Owen Shaffer said. “It's difficult to control power outages from happening, and this one just happened at a rough time.”