Monday, 27 April 2009

Leeds University Power Cut - update

There's still no news on what caused the power failure at Leeds Uni last Friday, but it just seems to get more serious.

What I didn't know then was that it affected the hospital as well, that's Leeds General Infirmary. OK, I did know that some of the nurse's flats were without power but I just thought they were probably on the same grid as the University - one of the cleaners told me that!

Anyway news today: if I understand correctly, after the first power cut the hospital's generating station kicked in to keep it up and running. I would expect that. A half-hour or so later power to the Uni came back on; perhaps in a limited way I don't know yet, but then the Infirmary generators either couldn't cope or failed. The University's power had to be switched to the hospital. Even when power was fully restored they dare not throw the switches to bring back power to the Uni 'till many hours later. People over the road were on life support or in the operating theaters. Again, that is what I would expect - No matter their surgical skill, I would prefer not to have someone cutting up my squirmy pumpy bits with a sharp knife, by torchlight.

In other places, many people were trapped in lifts and (I shouldn't laugh) some people in ISS, the University's main computing service, were trapped inside behind computer controlled doors. For a long time. Way to go in the concept of 'failsafe'.

In the Faculty of Biological Sciences we don't always see eye to eye with ISS. We maintain huge computing facilities for X-Ray crystallography, protein sequencing, mass spectrometry, NMR etc & etc, as well as providing our own services for networks, secure backup, technical help and repairs. ISS have problems with doors! Their current news report, the only official thing I have seen begins:

"A review is under way to explore the causes of the power cut on Friday"
A review indeed...

I also received an email informing me:
"There exists a telephone cascade plan in the event of a critical incident which is held by the University Secretariat. Nonetheless I was not informed of the problems in the Faculty by any formal route (as it happens I was ill at home on Friday)."
What was lost is not just a couple of hours teaching time last Friday. I was talking to a teaching tech who had worked for a week growing and measuring Drosophila for a class today, results incomplete. When I was in research I have worked for months to set up a single experiment, people will have been doing the same last Friday afternoon only to lose everything. Think fridges warming up, spoiling samples and reagents. Think freezers warming up, affecting the validity of months, years, decades of samples.

All of this is, of course, mere anecdote. However, a reputable source tells me we should get real news tomorrow. I will wait and see. I'll try to post more news tomorrow night but I've got band practice, and yes we need it - gigs at the weekend!


NobblySan said...

More power, Igor!!

Well, a little bit would do if you possibly be so kind as to spare a bit.

Oh..go on...please!

Honestly! How am I expected to get 'creature' finished if I have to put up with these sort of interruptions.

It's enough to drive any self-respecting scientist mad.

Mad, I tell you...MAD! Haa haa haaaa...

(maniacal laughter fades....)

Andy Holroyd said...

Karl: It was a very fresh one.
Henry: Where did you get it?
Karl: I gave the gendarme fifty crowns.
Henry: She's alive! Alive!