An hour-long power outage in New Hall Tuesday night trapped one student in an elevator and left other residents in the dark and dependent on laptop computers for work. University Police responded to the scene to escort students after emergency lights and call boxes failed to work.
A student was trapped for about 20 minutes in an elevator between the third and fourth floors with no way to call for help, because the emergency call box did not work, GW officials said.
D.C. Fire Department spokesman Alan Etter said there usually is some way for a person trapped in an elevator to contact the authorities.
“It is interesting they did not call the fire department,” Etter said.
Student Association President Roger Kapoor, who was at New Hall during the power outage, said he was dissatisfied with the faulty emergency lighting and what he called a lack of preparedness in the residence hall.
Bob Dobkin, spokesman for GW energy-supplier Pepco, said residential and office buildings usually have back-up generators or batteries to provide limited electricity when power goes down.
Michael Peller, managing director of business services in the treasurer’s office, said Facilities Management is investigating the malfunctioning emergency lights.
Peller said residence halls have emergency lights that are supposed to illuminate when a blackout occurs.
“We try to make it so there is at least enough lighting so you can see your way down the hallway,” he said. “We are aware the building was completely black. That was not good.”
Students gathered candles and flashlights to light rooms and navigate the H Street residence hall without exit lights.
Dobkin said the blackout was caused when two power feeders that supply the area with electricity went down.
Dobkin said maintenance workers deactivated one feeder that powers New Hall that night for scheduled repairs.
“We were replacing a transformer at around 7 p.m. and at that point the building was still receiving power,” Dobkin said.
A second feeder malfunctioned at about 10 p.m., which caused the blackout at New Hall and 3333 K St. in Georgetown, he said.
The power was restored at about 10:50 p.m.
Dobkin said the power came back online after the transformer was replaced and the first feeder became operational again. He said he is unaware as to whether the second feeder has been repaired yet.
About 10 to 15 UPD officers were on hand with flashlights to escort students to their rooms and help light the building.
Peller said UPD is usually the first to respond to power outages and has the authority to decide what action to take if the situation is not an emergency.
“I received several calls, and I heard the situation would be resolved soon,” Peller said. “Pepco advised us that the power was going to be resolved shortly.”