City-Wide Planned Blackout Allows for Successful Power Line Repairs, Concludes Early


Abe Frato

The Oberlin community experienced a City-wide blackout last weekend.

The City of Oberlin staged a citywide power outage at 12 a.m. Oct. 30 to allow FirstEnergy to repair a broken cross-arm brace on a transmission line. The repairs went smoothly and power returned to the City at 3 a.m. on Sunday morning, three hours earlier than expected. 

Similar to the planned power outage in October 2021, the repairs were carried out after a FirstEnergy inspection identified a piece of an insulator that needed to be replaced. According to Director of Oberlin Municipal Light and Power System Doug McMillan, the rolling power outages across campus earlier this October were due to unrelated causes.

“I’m not sure if that was a squirrel or a branch,” McMillan said. “We had one of those two that came down just in the wrong spot, and it took out a good chunk of the area.”

During the outage, students could enter their individual rooms, where key card operators are battery-powered, but external dorm entrances could not be accessed electronically. College second-year Gavin Cahill, a Resident Assistant of Price House, explained why he was instructed to discourage the propping of doors.

“That was definitely a big no that we got,” Cahill said. “If the doors were open at the time the power went out, they would stay unlocked for the whole night and wouldn’t lock until the power’s supposed to come back on, which was originally 6 a.m. … And so then that would become a huge safety concern of just anyone being able to get into the dorms.”

RAs worked through the night to address any issues that could have arisen during to the blackout. 

“One of the main things that night before the power works went out was literally just circling all the doors, making sure they stayed closed, because some people were trying to prop them open,” Cahill said. “In a sense, we all had to be on duty in our own dorm, because if something else happened in another dorm, we wouldn’t be able to get to that dorm.”

The announcement on the City of Oberlin webpage, as well as the one circulated in the Campus Digest regarding the Oct. 30 power outage, noted that emergency services would not be interrupted during the power outage. For the Oberlin Electricity Department, this entailed setting up generators at traffic lights and ensuring other municipal departments, such as police, had backup generators. Oberlin Electricity had no sway over power the College supplied to dorms.

McMillan commented on the timing of the power outage.

“We chose that time because the industrial park has a third shift,” McMillan said. “Early Sunday morning, they’re not running that shift. So we didn’t wanna disrupt people making their wages there … Because a plant like that would just shut down for the whole evening. So they would lose a whole shift of work.”