District 231 Upgrading Emergency Energy, Communication Methods

After a recent power outage sent electrical lines surging to the sidewalk outside EPCHS, District 231 will consider a new backup generator and using Twitter in case of emergencies.

is looking to buy a new backup-electrical generator, and use Twitter to communicate with teachers during emergencies, after fallen power lines left the school in the dark for over an hour earlier this month.

Around 2:20 p.m. on hanging over the high school's parking lot, 100th Street and Kedzie Avenue. The balloons, identical to the metallic kind, soon burst on the wires, blowing circuits then sending an electrical surge toward power lines hanging over 99th Street and Kedzie Avenue.

“It's amazing that those little balloons did that,” said facilities director William McGuire.

Soon after the power went out, a representative from ComEd was sent to the scene. The village Police and Fire Departments were sent to manage the fallen wires, which had a capacity of 10,000 volts to 15,000 volts, McGuire said.

ComEd estimates 1,342 customers in over 35 blocks lost power that day. The power company worked quickly to have electricity at nearby hospitals turned on, and by 3:30 p.m., power was restored to EPCHS.

“It's rough to learn from that experience,” McGuire added, “but we'll implement more procedures to make it a little smoother [next time].”

Supt. Dr. M. Elizabeth Hart noted that the school is looking at purchasing a generator system that would connect to emergency lights, air conditioning units, PA boxes and digital phones throughout the high school, which were all knocked out during the power outage.

“Command central,” where the power switch for the generator would be held, is right by the superintendents office, McGuire said.

The air conditioning in the computer lab is especially important. When knocked out, the lab can get to over 100 degrees from the excess computer heat.

“We'll hire a professional to come in and look at our system,” Hart said. “There was one good thing about this; even though it was kind of a nerve-wracking day, we've learned, unbelievably, what to do [in the event of a power outage].”

The school will open a Twitter account to update teachers, via their cellphones, in the event of another outage. With the PA and phone systems out, Hart said, teachers were limited to the amount of information they could receive.

At one point, Hart said the police department told her to release the students, while the fire department said the opposite.

 “There were students trying to get through the doors,” said student ambassador Emma Point. “It was fun though."


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