Biola blackout cause revealed

Facilities management, Campus Safety explain how they dealt with the darkness.

Biola was shrouded in darkness on Jan. 16 due to a campus-wide power outage at around 5:30 p.m. caused by a bad cable, according to senior director of facilities management Brian Phillips.

This single cable also shut down power for 388 customers of Southern California Edison in the area surrounding campus. Because of the outage, students were also without Wi-Fi for approximately three hours. Campus Safety issued updates via text and email to keep students in the loop until power was restored at 8:20 p.m.


Campus Safety acted immediately to the outage by running emergency operations and deployed officers to 14 zones on campus to ensure student safety. Upon checking the elevators in Thompson Hall and the Alton and Lydia Lim Center for Science, Technology and Health, Campus Safety personnel discovered people trapped inside.

“There were two students stuck in the Thompson elevator and there was one staff member stuck in the Lim Center elevator,” said Campus Safety chief John Ojeisekhoba. “If someone is stuck in an elevator, an officer will stay with the person and… assess their well-being and continue to engage them in conversation, so we did that while the outside elevator company arrived, which took about half an hour.”

Although the elevator service provider was able to free the occupants soon after arrival, the battery lowering devices installed in each elevator did not work the night of the outage, according to Phillips. These devices are designed to bring the elevator car to ground level and open the doors.

“This feature is tested monthly. We’re unsure why it didn’t work last night when it was needed,” Phillips said in an email. “We’re now looking at other options for reducing response times at [the] Lim Center if this should reoccur in the future.”


Campus Safety kept in touch with the student body through Biola Safety Alert texts. One such text notified students that 6 p.m. classes were canceled.

“I spoke to the provost to give her an update and to ask her what she wanted to do about classes. After conferring with her, the decision was to cancel classes,” Ojeisekhoba said.

Although the natural order of campus life was disrupted, Campus Safety is trained to anticipate these events.

“[At] each dormitory we’ve pre-stored lanterns, so they can deploy that to dark hallways and dark areas,” Ojeisekhoba said. “It just shows that preparedness works because you never know when major emergencies will come.”


While the darkness was disorienting for the community, some students used the outage as an opportunity to unplug and make new friends.

“After walking around campus, I met up with a friend, and we sat in his dorm,” said Ben Folgert, sophomore cinema and media arts major. “He mentioned that he plays guitar and started playing songs and we started singing along. And we brought in some people from the hallway, and they got instruments from their room, and we just had a whole acapella, karaoke night and met some new friends.”

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