When the Lights Go Out
IT’s Responsibilities During a Campus Power Outage

On November 7, Paul Redfern, Executive Director of Communications and Marketing, issued the following e-mail notification which began: “The Gettysburg College campus has lost power. The Colleges network will also be affected shortly, and email communications and web updates will become impossible.” The notification was in response to a power outage on campus caused by the Nor‘easter that hit the East Coast one week after Super Storm Sandy had ravaged much of the same area. Fortunately, Gettysburg College had avoided the major effects of both storms, but a power outage resulted from high winds in the area. The loss of power was a weather related emergency, so according to the College’s Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) the Department of Public Safety is the designated lead agency for directing on-campus operations. The actions to be taken were detailed in Redfern’s complete e-mail to the campus. The College’s network was on backup battery power and in the process of shutting down. A smooth shutdown required the response of the entire IT Division. In this article Rod Tosten, Vice President for IT, explains the role of the Division in protecting important College and personal data as well as providing a smooth restart to the network after power was restored to the campus.

As soon as the server senses a loss of power from external sources, it switches to the Universal Power Supply (backup battery pack) that is attached to it. This gives about one hour of useful operating life. At this time, it is the IC and Data Systems staff’s responsibility to shut down all campus systems as cleanly, i.e. without loss of existing or newly entered data, as possible. The degree of success depends on the time that the shutdown occurs and the amount of traffic on the system. If regularly scheduled backups had been done close to the time of the power loss, the process is easier. The actual time available for shutdown is typically about one half hour. So, time is of the essence. After the shutdown, the IC and DS Departments are put on standby until power is restored.

Once power has been restored to the campus, all of the IT departments were required to bring the campus back to life, in the technological sense. First, IC and DS need to turn on the system’s infrastructure. The order is always: the network is restored first, then communications (e-mail and web sites) and, concurrently, data applications are restored. ITT works on restoring the academic technology, including all labs and classrooms, the Help Desk addresses any specific user needs that resulted from the power outage, and assigns them to the appropriate technicians, Communications/Telecommunications were responsible for monitoring the state of phone communications throughout the entire outage and power restoration process, using power from a backup generator that runs the phone system. The restoration process depends upon how clean the backup process was and may take from one hour minimum to three hours.

Tosten was extremely impressed and pleased by the efficient and professional way that the entire IT staff carried out this process and the unselfish hard work that was put in by all during the recent emergency. He said that he was extremely “Proud to Be IT.”

Check List for Your On Campus Desktop Computer
Karla Swinn
Computer Support Specialist

During this season of checking lists (even twice) take a few minute to review this COMPUTER CHECKLIST prior to leaving campus for the holidays.

Before leaving your office:

  1. Update your voice mail greeting to let people know you will be out of the office for an extended amount of time. Instructions are located: /about/offices/it/io/telecommunications/voicemail_instructions.dot
  2. Keep your password from expiring. If you will be away for more than a few weeks and think your network password may expire, change it prior to leaving campus (especially if you are travelling out of the Gettysburg area). The link to changing your password can be found here: /about/offices/it/changing_passwords.dot
  3. Turn on Automatic (Out of Office) replies in your email. In Outlook 2007 and 2010, use the Out of Office Assistant. In Office 2007 on the Tools tab, click Out of Office Assistant. In Outlook 2010 on the file tab, click the Info tab and select Automatic Replies. In Outlook 2011 on the “Tools” tab, click “Out of Office”.
  4. Turn your computer off! This will save a great deal of energy and eliminate any issues that could develop in the case of a power outage.

When you return to your office:

  1. Turn your computer on.
  2. BE PATIENT as the computer runs through the boot up processes. Throughout the day, updates to your operating system will want to download and install on your computer. Also, the Symantec Anti-Virus scan will run. This may slow down your computer, so be patient while these important tasks occur.
  3. Check to be sure the Out of Office replies are turned off.
  4. Check your voice mail greeting to be sure it reflects that you are back on campus.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the IT Helpdesk by calling 337-7000, option 1 for classroom computer assistance or option 2 for employee computers. IT Helpdesk hours are Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. -5:00 p.m. The Helpdesk office is closed from 12:00 Noon until 1:00 p.m.

The Winter Holiday break for Gettysburg College will begin Friday, December 21 at 5:00 p.m., continuing until Wednesday, January 2, 2013. and the IT Helpdesk will be closed during this holiday break, re-opening on January 2 at 7:30 a.m.

IT Wishes Everyone
A Very Happy Holiday Season

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