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Campus power outages cause chaos for businesses

October 2, 2018

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Campus power outages cause chaos for businesses

SF State’s commercial eateries took a hit when power outages occurred during back-to-back weekends last month.

Although seemingly insignificant to many on campus, the blackouts on Sept. 8 from noon-2:30 p.m. and on Sept. 16 from 8-8:30 a.m. were more than just a headache for SF State’s Taqueria Girasol.

The restaurant’s owner, Marco Ballesteros, said his shop is full of equipment that relies heavily on electronics, and it’s not just a matter of flicking a switch to get it all online again.

“Every time there’s a power outage, it costs me $150 for a technician to fix it,” Ballesteros said.

The outages not only affect Ballesteros’s equipment, which requires a reset every time there’s a power outage, but they also rendered one of his computers unusable.

“All my grills and fryers have electric pilots. A power outage can set me back at least 30 to 45 minutes,” he said.

The one saving grace was the timing, he said.

“Thank God it was only on the weekend,” Ballesteros said.  

All he has left to do is anxiously await another one since there’s no way to anticipate them or figure out why they happen.

Xpress spoke to several student residents who said they weren’t affected since they were either sleeping or away from campus.

“I’d love to find out why it happened and what we can do to avoid it,” Ballesteros said.

Audun Aaberg, SF State senior director of facilities, said that the university is still looking into what went wrong. He placed some of the blame on Pacific Gas & Electric.

“We know that something happened on PG&E’s side, but we don’t know what exactly happened,” Aaberg said. “The power is usually interrupted at a substation level. If it’s 100 percent on PG&E’s end, there’s nothing we can do.”

PG&E has not responded to requests for comment.

The facilities department has certain procedures it follows in the event of a power outage, Aaberg said.

“As soon as we learn that we’re having a problem, we call the PG&E operations center, which sends people to campus,” Aaberg said. “After going through a routine to check that everything is good, the power goes on after approval from PG&E.”

Residential Life director David Rourke said his department partners up with facilities to address any related problems.

“While we leave the heavy lifting to our facilities colleagues on restoring power, your team of 250 student leaders, student employees and professional team members help maintain a visible presence in the community to help provide information about the outage,” Rourke said.

The team also makes sure students are safe.

“We check to be certain that emergency lighting has activated, check to see that students are not trapped in elevators, and sometimes provide a fire watch system if our fire safety system has been compromised,” Rourke said.

Residential Life provided a video on Instagram to outline what those living on campus should do in the event of a power outage. Residential Life urges on-campus residents to use the stairs and to make an emergency bag containing at least a flashlight and extra batteries.