Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The warm orange glow, the BackUPS beeping...

As I sat in my chair, working on a minor issue for a customer, I suddenly noticed that the UPS units in my home office (I have three of 'em) started beeping like mad, and there was a bright orange light in my window. The lights in my room were flickering.

This couldn't be good.

I looked out the window, and burning like a flare was the top of the utility pole across the street. A distribution unit had blown out and was on fire, sparking and sputtering, lighting up the whole neighborhood. We were basically down half of our 200 amp service so far, with the remainder flickering on and off. I shut down the UPS units, calling 911 as I did so - they quickly got me to the fire department and as I reported it I heard them heading out already. Within a couple of minutes, a ladder truck, two police cruisers, and a National Grid (the electric utility) were already on my street. The firefighters just watched, and soon left - it was out of their area of expertise. The police blocked off the end of the street and let the lineman work.

First, he headed down to the other end of the street to cut power to the whole line. Then he cut it at my end as well. Meanwhile, the fire burned out and the failed unit (estimated by the lineman to be about 50 years old) fell to the ground in glowing pieces. He went up in his bucket truck and within 15 minutes had replaced the failed unit with a brand new one, and made all the cable repairs.

The entire incident, from the first flames to restored power, lasted less than an hour. In freezing weather on a Wednesday night. Those guys are good.

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