Students, faculty and staff stand outside Iacocca Hall on Monday, April 27, 2015. The building was evacuated on Thursday, June 23, 2016, because of a power outage. (Samantha Tomaszewski/B&W Staff)

Iacocca power outage affected research projects

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Iacocca Hall was evacuated June 23 because of a power outage to the building that could have posed safety hazards.

The building houses several departments’ research facilities and so some faculty had to stabilize their labs before evacuating the building, according to an email sent to faculty after the power outage.

Alan Snyder, vice president and associate provost for research and graduate studies, said in an email that during power outages it is inevitable that research projects are impacted.

“It is common that experiments take hours to perform, with steps carefully orchestrated and timed, as well as equipment that needs to run continuously to maintain temperatures and other conditions,” Snyder wrote. “In such cases, the interruption can by itself mean a loss of that day’s work or more, and equipment that has run continuously for months or years can fail when power is interrupted.”

Additionally, he said Lehigh’s Risk Management office was collecting information about losses of equipment and materials.

He wrote the outage involved a failure of the backup generator that would have provided power to some equipment while the power was being restored.

The email sent to faculty stated that the outage was due to “damage to a cable feeding the building by contractors working on an overall utility upgrade for the Mountaintop campus, and failure of the backup generator.”

The backup generator that failed had passed its periodic testing and all backup generators are regularly tested. Facilities has identified the part that failed and is requiring the contractor to ensure the availability of temporary backup before continuing their work while repairs are in progress. The contractor is conducting its own internal investigation.

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