Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Things to notice when the lights go out

So two times today, power failed at UBC. The first time was around 1 in the afternoon. Sebastian, from my plant genetics class recounted to me that someone else in his lab had lost 100 PCR reactions that had been in the thermocycler due the 20-minute outage. I sympathized absently, and wondered how much money of wasted taq that was. When the second outage hit, at 7:25, I was in the lab myself, waiting for some media to cool. Being in the basement, it went pitch black. According to the EOS facilities manager, a transformer failed in the afternoon, and the power was rerouted to another one. But according to his email this afternoon, there was no guarantee that it wouldn't happen again.

I noticed a few things:

  • UBC has no auxiliary power to the labs in the biology building. Only a few hallways had some lights.
  • The incubators in which our experiments reside have no automatic backup. Neither do our freezers, including the -70. There are numerous fish labs in the bio building. Prolonged lack of refrigeration could get ugly.
  • The SUB was completely dark
  • Many windows in Gage seemed to have mysterious sources of light. By contrast, the windows in the new condos behind Gage were brightly lit as normal.
  • the bus loop has no emergency lights
  • People love it when stuff goes wrong. It seems like we just wait for problems, however mundane (or maybe, especially mundane), as long as they're a little bit universal. Everyone on the incredibly packed bus home was in the most elated mood: seats were shuffled to the most deserving-looking people promptly; if you swayed, you would be grabbed and stabilized from a couple directions; pleasantries and smiles were exchanged.
  • Simple phones, with no additional functions, are good. You can still dial by them feeling around in total darkeness.

Where does the power on campus come from? Is plant ops in charge of it? How come the new condos have better backup power than research labs? How many thousands of dollars will it cost when the power surge destroys all manner of expensive electronics in labs all over campus (not to mention the wasted taq!)? Any enlightenment would be most welcome.