By Matthew Merino
Grumpy half-awoken students, public safety scrambling, gloomy skies, and a fallen tree. These were the elements that made up William Peace University’s power outage event on Friday, Feb. 5.
At about 7 a.m., WPU students were awoken to the sounds of exploding electrical units and fire alarms. Subsequently, students were escorted by public safety and resident assistants to safer locations. The loss of power is attributed to a large tree that fell across Halifax Street and onto power lines next to Bingham Residence Hall.
Tucker Soltez, a WPU sophomore pursuing environmental studies, was one of the Bingham residents who experienced the power outage first hand.
“I first heard yelling – I was really surprised to hear yelling – that’s when I knew this might not be a joke,” Soltez said. “I walked out [of Bingham] and looked to my left to see that a tree fell. What I saw next was an explosion that almost looked like a firework coming from the powerlines – and I was like, ‘that’s dangerous.'”
Bingham residents were then escorted to the athletic center lobby to stay clear of the damaged power lines and await further information on classes. Public safety was integral in making this operation as smooth as possible.
“I always give credit to public safety because it is hard to give out information when you don’t know…so when they rushed us to the lobby and had us sit for a while, a bunch a people didn’t like it, but I thought public safety did a good job in trying to get us back on our regular schedule as fast as they could,” Soltez said.
For public safety and WPU staff, there were a number of challenges immediately presented in the first couple hours of the situation. WPU’s Associate Vice President for Building and Grounds John Cranham was at the helm of solving these challenges.
John Cranham was working with multiple different groups, including the City of Raleigh Fire Department, Raleigh PD, and Duke Energy, in order to resolve the power outage along with the fallen tree.
Cranham was dealing with a 50 percent power outage on campus. Eventually, with the help of the City of Raleigh’s emergency services, Cranham and co. were able to get about 90 percent of campus’ power back online. Bingham Residence Hall took longer to get back online because of its location in relation to the damaged power lines, taking an additional 20 hours to restore power.
In the midst of the power outage, students may have discovered the importance of being prepared for an event such as this. Cranham, being experienced in handling these kinds of situations, has some pointers for students pondering their preparedness.
“Be prepared with some type of flashlight and understand that this is your home away from home,” Cranham said, “and take the same preparation that you would at your home – have food and basic necessities on hand.”
Cranham also points out that campus facilities, staff, and public safety do their best to help all the students in need as well.
“We’re going to take the responsibility to make sure that if you are in a particular building, we’re going to provide an alternative for that – and that’s what we did. We’re responsible to make sure that there’s a food source, a transportation source – all those various pieces of it – we’re going to make sure that those are available to students.”
Public safety even provided alternative bedding in WPU’s Auxiliary gym, provided lanterns for students that decided to stay in their dorms rather than go back home, and provided a public safety officer to offer as-needed assistance in Bingham Residence Hall.
Cranham is happy that the situation got resolved with minimal issues, and said that this event was a learning experience for WPU in being prepared for these emergencies.
The tree fell on the corner of Halifax and Delway Street.