The Jolly Giant Commons during the Public Safety Power Shutoff on Oct. 27. | Photo by James Wilde

How HSU Handled Its Second Blackout

For the second outage to affect Humboldt in less than a month, students and staff were better prepared for the darkness and the subsequent time off.
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For the second outage to affect Humboldt in less than a month, students and staff were better prepared for the darkness and the subsequent time off

After Humboldt County’s first Public Safety Power Shutoff, students and staff at Humboldt State University were better prepared when the latest outage hit the county the night of Saturday, Oct. 26.

Marine biology sophomore Tyler Nagle spent his Sunday at a beach in Trinidad with friends.

“I went to the beach, got a campfire going, roasted some s’mores and looked at the stars,” Nagle said.

While Nagle said he’s learned how to prepare for these outages, he did have concerns about the outages’ impact on classes.

“I definitely think this has taken a hit on my learning,” Nagle said. “But I hope these will be more few and far in between.”

Vice President for Administration and Finance and HSU Emergency Operations Center Director Douglas Dawes said it’s too early to make any calls about how the outages will affect the semester’s class schedule, but he said HSU will be in touch with its academic accreditor.

Otherwise, Dawes said he’s proud of the way the campus has handled the outages.

“There have been some hiccups, but we’re getting through it,” Dawes said.

Dawes said one generator failed over the weekend, but Facilities Management quickly moved around generators to keep providing power to the most essential buildings on campus including the Jolly Giant Commons, Student Recreations Center and residence halls.

“They’ve been champions,” Dawes said. “Our facilities team has been keeping everything together.”

Daniel Valencia, a sophomore kinesiology major, normally works at The Depot. During the outage, Valencia helped out at The J. When not working, Valencia said he enjoyed his hobbies.

“I picked up skating more,” Valencia said. “And I’ve been looking into hobbies like reading and painting.”

Zane Eddy, a master’s student in the environmental science and management program, came from an undergraduate program at the University of Oregon. Eddy said he was surprised by the outages.

“It’s really odd having these power outages,” Eddy said.

Eddy spent his free time going to Clam Beach and picking chanterelle mushrooms. Eddy said he believes the outages will make people understand their dependence on others for power.

“We’re part of a larger system and we’re part of a larger environment,” Eddy said.

While preparing for the outages on Friday, Interim Vice President of Enrollment Management Jason Meriwether echoed Dawes and said he was proud of how HSU handled the first outage.

“That was a positive thing that we responded to the power outage in that way,” Meriwether said. “Now, in my opinion, that’s how it should always be and that’s how it will be. But I think students were happy to know we took that approach.”

Dawes said HSU served 4,400 meals on Sunday. While he admitted that HSU incurred some significant costs in diesel and food, he said a percentage of those costs can be covered by disaster funds.

On Tuesday, HSU uploaded a response page for students wondering why classes are cancelled during the outage. The page noted concerns over safety, non-functioning technology and a focus on personal wellbeing. The page also explained why it takes time to reopen campus even once power is restored.

“It takes a great deal of time to safely re-open the campus, including powering down and disconnecting generators, resetting locks, and ensuring fire suppression systems are working,” HSU’s post said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, HSU classes are set to resume on Thursday, Oct. 31.

In the future, Dawes said HSU will likely look toward generating more of its own power.

“Having more generation for the campus would be a huge help,” Dawes said. “So we’ll be looking into doing that.”

For now, Dawes wanted to thank staff, faculty and students for restoring his faith and hope in humanity.

“We’ve got really good students that want to provide for others,” Dawes said. “And staff that really care about providing for students as well.”

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