Fort Jackson hit with outage
August 6, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Fort Jackson struggled Wednesday to maintain military and civilian operations in the wake of a massive power outage.
The outage stemmed from undetermined problems at an electrical substation on Lee Road putting the post in the dark around 5 p.m. Tuesday. Most of Fort Jackson remained without power until later the following day, though a select number of properties were unaffected by the outage.
"We lost power Tuesday night and had to close early," said Burger King Manager Frank Slay. Power had been restored to the restaurant on Strom Thurmond Boulevard by the following morning.
"I'm not sure why we have power while some don't," he said Wednesday afternoon. "We've had power since we opened this morning."
The commissary, which stocks an assortment of frozen and refrigerated food, was among the buildings to go without power only briefly.
"There was no loss of profit," said Commissary Manager Yvonne Monroe. "Power went out around 5 p.m., but was back up at 6. No items had to be thrown out."
Popeye's was not as fortunate. The power outage kept the restaurant closed for most of Family Day, which routinely brings in thousands of visitors to Fort Jackson.
"If we don't reopen we're going to lose about $10,000 in sales," Popeye's Manager Roxann Chamberlain said Wednesday. "We're going to have (our employees) go help out at the food court, to help them get their customers out."
Power was restored by 4: 30 p.m. Wednesday, but as of Thursday afternoon there was no explanation for the cause of the outage. An electrical substation on Fort Jackson was damaged, possibly by a bolt of lightning, which triggered a chain of events that left the post without power, said SCE&G spokesman Eric Boomhower.
The substation is a single structure, but is divided into two parts, operated separately by Fort Jackson and SCE&G, he said.
"Something happened. It might have been a lighting strike, but a breaker on the Fort Jackson side of the fence had a fault, and the breaker on that circuit didn't open like it was supposed to," Boomhower said. "There was also a piece of equipment on (the SCE&G) side that did not work properly. We needed to do repairs to both sides of the substation before we could restore power to the fort."
Fort Jackson Garrison Commander Col. Michael Graese praised the Directorate of Public Works, Directorate of Logistics, Directorate of Emergency Services, and Network Enterprise Center for their efforts to get power restored.
"In addition, our partnership with SCE&G was of vital importance to restoring power to the entire post, not only in a timely manner, but also a safe manner without increasing potential damage to our assets," Graese said. "This unfortunate situation gives us the opportunity to assess our SOPs and make any needed changes that will improve our efforts for the future. We are fortunate this situation took place sooner, as opposed during a natural disaster.
"Lastly, I am truly grateful for the patience of our families and Soldiers," he said.
While the power outage disrupted daily activities, it created more serious problems at Moncrief Army Community Hospital. An electrical generator provided a small amount of power to crucial services, but the hospital was without access to telephones and computer networks.
Because patients with scheduled appointments on Wednesday could not be contacted by the hospital, Soldiers were posted in front of the building to meet visitors and reschedule appointments for non-emergency issues.
"We're implementing our contingency plan for our acute, urgent medical needs," Pamela English, chief of Managed Care for Moncrief Army Community Hospital, said Wednesday morning. "We have services in our urgent care center, but they are limited. We're predominantly taking care of our active duty population in urgent care services."
The outage affected services in 33 medical clinics, she said.
"The generators cover things that are medically essential," she said. "Our generators power refrigerator units that have immunizations and medications that must remain refrigerated. They cover our in-patient units so that our patients on the wards can have safe, quality healthcare. But generators can't produce enough electricity to power a 12-story building. It gives us minimal lighting, but it's not ideal."
Security officials overcame the loss of electronic communications by putting boots on the ground throughout the day, said Physical Security officer Fred Vasquez.
"We tend to operate on the outside, so the (loss of) lights didn't affect us that much," Vasquez said. "Some of the administrative things didn't get done, like e-mail, but everything else went pretty smooth. You just have to adapt and overcome, and just continue to move forward."
The post's announcement speakers used for Family Day activities were also down because of the outage.
"We used internal battalion speakers, but it didn't reach as far as we would have liked. But it worked," said Lt. Col. Eric Shoureck, 2nd Battalion 60th Infantry Regiment Commander. "Also, we couldn't do any of the onpost meals that we have for families at the Officers' Club. Due to that I gave everybody (Soldiers) an off-post pass with their families. The good thing is all Soldiers made it back safely last night before 9 p.m."
The Post Exchange and Food Court were not among the facilities affected by the power outage.
"The Gate 2 Shopette, as a result of the power outage, lost a computer that controlled the pumps, and so we had to get that fully operational before opening at 9:30 in the morning," said Exchange General Manager Don Sydlik. "As a result of the power outage, families were given an off-post pass, and this had an effect on business."
"It definitely affected us," said Staff Sgt. Major Blaine Huston, Deputy Commandant of the Drill Sergeant School. "We were definitely one of the lucky ones with air conditioning, but our Internet and phones were down."
It had been predicted the post would be without power for several days, but electricity was restored within 24 hours of the outage.
"We were happy to be able to work cooperatively with the fort to get power restored as quickly as possible," Boomhower said. "There were estimated that it would take a few days, but it was completed in less than 24 hours."