Working Without Power

Posted Wednesday, September 17, 2008 9:48:18 PM
It's been 81 hours since the power went off at my office in Middletown, Ohio. At one point nearly 2 million people between Cincinnati and Columbus were without power. As of now, that number has been reduced to 800 thousand. Duke Energy and DP&L have stated that 100% of all power will not be restored until the end of the weekend (September 21, 2008).

My Office
Day One - September 15, 2008
Generator at Office In the office we hooked up a generator to power our phones, servers and routers. This restored most of our websites and email. Next, we hooked up several laptops in our server room and brought in key sales reps to handle quotations and answer phones while they sat in candle light. We managed to rig a fax machine up and bypass our normal fax server, so the sales reps were also able to receive signed contracts. This scheme worked well for day one of the outage, but we quickly saw it was not a long term solution as not all of our servers could be powered by one generator. A customer whose server we could not power, managed to find a generator and brought it in to us. This got his personal server up, as well as the rest of our email servers. After several hours of running the generators we sent an employee to get more gas and found a major problem: all the gas stations were running out of gas. After several failed attempts to get gas, he finally found a station that was able to provide after a 45 minute wait. We took 3 hour shifts throughout the night keeping the generators full of gas and making sure the network remained stable.

Day Two - September 16, 2008
Generator at Office On day two we got a third and fourth generator. One we hooked up to the sales reps actual computers, which allowed for a much better work environment; we were also able to turn it off after 8 PM when the sales reps had all left for the day to conserve gas. The second one we hooked up to the remaining servers which brought us close to 100% working functionality. The only thing the sales reps were still begging for was a printer, but printers simply pulled too much power to be hooked to any generator. Still fighting to get gasoline, we lucked out in finding a store with some five gallon gas cans in stock. We purchased three and filled them up. This brought our total gas reserve up to 35.5 gallons, or 20 hours of power.

At approximately hour 57 (10 PM) of no power, Duke Energy got some power power to the building, but not everything was working yet. Even still, this allowed us to move all of the servers to real power, which saved greatly on gasoline. With only one generator now running, and it only being needed during the day, we stopped the nightly shifts and tried to get some sleep.

Day Three - September 17, 2008
We all hoped that when we got in the next morning we'd have full power in the building, but of course, that was not the case. We got in and found that two of the three phases of power coming into the building were down. This left 70-80% of the building without power. We quickly started the generator for the sales reps and began planning our next move. The sales reps of course asked again for a printer, which this time we were able to provide. We hooked up a printer via an extension cord to the bathrooms, and manually added it to each PC. The rest of Day 3 was spent assessing damages and trying to get some routine work done. I finally listened to the 19 voice mails I had and returned some phone calls.

Sometime mid-afternoon we discovered water/sewage was backing up into the basement drains. We called the city who promptly came out to investigate. They believed the issue was a local issue and not a problem with their drainage systems. We turned on our sump pump to try and get rid of the mess, but we are still not 100% convinced it's not their fault, but we will see in time.
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