Thursday, October 08, 2015


     Yesterday went bad about 5:20 or 5:30 p.m. we took a power hit at the Skunk Workings.  The generator started and some of the lights came back on--

     But not all of them.  Most of the older part of the building remained dark and a hasty examination of generator, transfer switches, the "new" main electrical room and the "old" electrical room a floor lower and the length of the building away that the new room feeds didn't reveal anything obvious -- no tripped breakers, warm spots, smoke or fire.  The old room has a number of high-current switches with unreadable labels, some on and some off, the result of changes made when the building was expanded.

     There was much mad rushing about, trying to maintain a semblance of normality.  They were mostly successful.  The main process was working okay and then, all of a sudden, an hour after the initial failure, it wasn't.

     That was my department. I was tracking down the exact point of failure and had found it when the lights came back on.  Those switches with unreadable labels?  They are the visible portion of huge (possibly ground-fault) circuit breakers, with an oddball reset procedure.  The Building Maintenance guy showed up. realized they were what was wrong, and (with help -- it's a two-man lift) reset 'em.  A weird power-line transient had tripped them. My department is not allowed access to the electrical rooms, so we had no way of knowing what was normal.

     And the smaller but still bad problem I tracked down?  A single distribution amplifier on an unreliable stand-alone UPS instead of the big one.  My old boss had insisted on it, over my objections.  I moved the power for it over to the big UPS and that won't bite us in that way again.

     But the big power problem?  That's not my department and hasn't been any of my concern for years.  The boys in suits decided to get clever and go for compartmentalization and that is their problem.

* * *
     Got through all that, an hour after my usual quitting time, and still had to pick up a prescription for my Mom and deliver it to her.  Easy, right?  --She lives in a retirement complex in the next count to the North.  I was downtown.  Indy has no north-south freeway in that direction; the nearest approximations take you miles out of your way.  So I fought up Meridian St. to the wiggly Westfield Boulevard, turned left at the intersection of Westfield and Westfield (don't ask, it just does that) and zoomed up to the county line, where it becomes Rangeline Rd.  On up to the market by hazy directions, pharmacy was still open, I got her prescription and grabbed some stuff for dinner later.  Across the little town (sorry, Carmel, compared to Indy, you're still little) to Pennsylvania, hoping the road connected (Carmel exists in a permanent state of Road Construction), and up to The Home.

     The complex doors were locked.  I knew they would be but Mom had given me the code.

     The code did not work.  Simple keypad.  Tried the obvious permutations.  Did not work.  Mom came to the door from the inside: the crashbar does not override the lock.  Can't have the old folks wandering off! (I can't speak for the others on her floor, but Mom doesn't wander in body or mind -- she's frail, but she's very much all there.)  I tried calling: a phone tree, leading to no answer, just a machine.  The place is staffed 24/7 but they have plenty to do.  I tried tripping the alarm at the main doors.  Nothing.  I tried a good, healthy rap: nothing.  I tried the "house phone."  Nothing.  Another couple of knuckle-raps and the main door popped open.  I popped in, got Mom, rolled her chair back to her room, gave her the pills, we had a nice little conversation and on the way out, I managed to find two staffers chatting in a quiet corner off the main lobby.  One of them let me out -- and gave me the correct code.

     Seems the memo Mom got had the wrong one.  Well, oopsie, but what if she'd needed medical assistance, an ambulance?  Where had they been ten minutes ago?  I can't speak for hypothetical EMTs, but I'd'a got in, and sorry about the door.  --And on the other hand, how lousy is your system if an annoyed woman can  pop the lock by rapping on the main door, trying to attract attention?

     I finally got home and fed the cats about 9:30.  A nice, restful evening, hey?


Comrade Misfit said...

I work in a decent-sized office building by rural county-seat standards. A small electrical fire began. FD was called. The building manager was unavailable. We (tenants) could tell the firemen what rooms were likely to be equipment rooms (the doors without office numbers), but nobody had keys or knew which rooms contained breakers.

The firemen just used their Halligan tools to break open the doors and, eventually, found the breaker panel with the main shutoff.

I expect that the same thing would have happened at your mom's nursing home.

Drang said...

Unfortunately, residents of such facilities do go walkabout. When we were researching with Mrs. Drang's father for his move, we heard a story about a woman who surprised everyone by learning the "get out" code by the simple expedient of watching staff use it; they didn't believe she had it in her. IIRC, it was a staff member who told us the story, in conjunction with explaining the beefed up monitoring regime they had established. (Which I don't recall, it having been several years ago.)

Meanwhile a couple of months ago we had a heckuva windstorm while I was at work. "Everyone knows" that a lightning strike on the facility will take all systems offline, and what to do about it, but this thing was taking out individual systems out one and two at a time, stretched out over an hour or two. It drove everyone nuts dealing with it, not least because there was no pattern or consistency to what was even going wrong. ("Okay, operators can do a simple reset on system 1, systems 2-4 will need to be rebooted but we can do that ourselves. 5, 8 and 9 have restarted themselves, facilities will have to look at 6, and 10-12. The rest are fine. Oh, wait...")

Glenn Kelley said...

EMT's would be called by some one on the inside so some one should be on the door to get them to the patient .


Douglas2 said...

Glenn - Could be called by the resident themselves in many places. My favourite emergency-services access story is the 2013 roofing tar heater fire at a Canadian spy agency, where the fire-service took the most direct route and showed up at the building without bothering to transit the high-security front gate of the campus: