Outages have not changed district’s emergency electrical protocol

“When I first went to school I thought I was watching some zombie show,” senior Adam Morrison says “There were generators powering lights…. It was very surreal.”

Power outages at Carmel High School are few and far between, but an all-day power outage on Jan. 22 conflicted with many school activities, such as teaching, club meetings and after-school sports.

CHS Principal Rick Lopez says that there is a protocol that the school follows during a power outage.

“The protocol is, first of all, finding the information as to when the power would be restored,” Lopez says. “There is interaction between the district and me. Mr. Parry is our safety coordinator, and he interacts with the district on that.”

Carmel Unified School District director of facilities and transportation Dan Paul says that the district then tries to use portable generators in order to reestablish communications.

“We also work with PG&E on a first name basis,” Paul says. “They will give us updates if there is an outage and will give us updates on what to expect.”

Next, Lopez says, the school follows out with other safety concerns like temperature and transportation issues.

“Luckily, for our climate,” Lopez says, “seldom do we have some the problems that the schools in the East have. Our climate just doesn’t have blizzards. However, if it does occur, we would consider closing the school if we have the power outage and if we have a significant safety violation at the school.”

Lopez acknowledges that the learning environment during power outages is extremely impacted. The school’s push towards using Chromebooks and having teachers build lessons around technology become significantly impaired when there is no power.

“This makes it difficult for teachers, but it doesn’t mean they are unable to interact with students,” Lopez says.

Lopez adds that the school’s unique electrical line with PG&E allows CHS to get power outages while the middle school or other district sites might not.

“Our school is at the end of one sector for PG&E that comes over the hill from Monterey,” he notes.

One possible option in order to have normal school activities during electrical outages would be to have school generators powering the entire high school.

“We have small generators that can power phone systems and emergency supplies,” Paul says. “These are intended not for the use of a temporary power outage, but used if we were stranded like we were in an earthquake.”

Paul says that more powerful generators have been used on different sites before.

“If we have a lengthy outage, there are options for us,” Paul explains. “There was a storm in 2008 where River School lost power for an extended period. We rented generators and ran the site for an entire school for a week. So, for lengthy outages, we will have a way to get things working.”

In the recent power outage, the district brought in additional generators for some lighting, but the principal says that CHS does not have any generators for the entire school.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, climate change is increasing the odds of more extreme weather events taking place. In spite of this, concerning whether the school will get generators capable of powering the school, Lopez says that it doesn’t “sound likely.”

Paul

“The district has an emergency plan for power outages. If a power outage occurs, we set up power generators in order to establish communications. There are also some procedures that go into place once the fire alarm batteries die. We also work with PG&E on a first name basis. They will give us updates if there is an outage and will give us updates on what to expect.”

“The high school uses the most power by far. The pool uses a ton of power. The pool pump runs 24/7 and we are actually working on an efficiency project for that pump. The theatre also uses a lot of energy. And, if you think about it, the high school has different hours. The elementary schools don’t have sports or plays after school.”

“The district just finished the Prop 39 lighting upgrades to all of the sites in late October. We are also looking at other options like upgrading the pool pump and upgrading the lighting controls in order to make sure the lights are not on during the day. We are also trying to upgrade the classrooms to the LED bulbs as the fluorescents are dying.”

“If we have a lengthy outage, there are options for us. There was a storm in 2008 where River School lost power for an extended period. We rented a generators and ran the site for an entire school for a week. So, for lengthy outages, we will have a way to get things working.”

“We have small generators that can power phone systems and emergency supplies.”

“We have been looking at solar on and off for ten years. Ideally, you want to perform all of your energy upgrades before changing to solar. There are still a lot of energy efficiency projects that we can do before we look at solar.”

-Ryan Lin