Lines for delivering electricity are vulnerable to damage from lightning, floods, fires, heavy snow, high winds, downed trees, or other disaster debris. If the damage is bad enough, electrical service stops and so, too, do services that depend on it, including most of the ways people stay warm or cool, keep and prepare food, and get gas or spending money.
Most blackouts are no worse than a minor inconvenience, but they can become dangerous, especially in winter. The biggest blackout in U.S. history occurred on August 14, 2003, when 50 million people had to do without power.
Power Outages on Campus
Campus-wide power outages are extremely rare. They are usually limited to a building or two and last less than five minutes. Preparation is most important in those even rarer occasions when a blackout lasts for more than a couple of hours.
If an outage occurs on-campus during normal business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.), Monday thru Friday, please report via one of these Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities channels.
If the outage is after hours, call the Virginia Tech Police Department at 540-231-6411.
Note that some equipment on campus is designed to work even during a power outage:
- Corded telephones (cordless phones rely on a power supply)
- Emergency lighting designed to illuminate exit pathways
- Security card systems
- Building fire alarm systems
- Specially marked receptacles connected to an emergency generator
- Equipment supported by uninterruptable power supplies (UPS) systems (temporarily on battery backup)
In most buildings only the alarm systems and emergency lighting are connected to a backup generator. During a blackout these systems may experience a brief (less than 10-second) interruption as power is switched to an emergency generator or when power to the building is restored.
Remember, elevators usually do not work during a power outage.