Backup Generator to Provide Power During Frequent Outages

Power outages in educational facilities are disruptive, more so than in residential areas. They can cripple schools with impacts on fire alarms, phone systems, lighting, and class schedules, as well as the potential for data loss and equipment damage. Consequently, schools need a source of accessible power at all times, especially during school hours.


Contractor pour concrete behind the Allyn (main) building last week.

Northwood School has been constructing an emergency power generator since the first week of November and is expected to finish before the end of January 2018. When completely set up, the diesel backup generator will supply power to the school campus, with the exception of Bergamini and the House, within three to five seconds of a power loss.

The arrangement will leave the girls’ dorms without electricity or heat during power outages; however, the school has a plan for the girls in the event of an extended power outage. “When we lose power, the boys will shift around from the west wing to the east wing so that the girls have a warm and safe place to stay in the west wing. Also, the faculty that lives on campus [in Bergamini and the House] can move into our classroom buildings,” said Joey Burnah, the head of the Northwood maintenance crew.


One of the generator pads, outside the Hanke ski building.

Teresa Brady, the chief financial officer/business manager of Northwood School, related that the Board of Trustees finalized plans for the backup generator in light of the recent scheduled power loss that affected the Lake Placid region, which lasted from 9 pm on November 13 to 6 am the following day. “The trustees have had discussions of building a generator on campus for many years, but the power outage that happened lately has made them reprioritize the project to the front of the list,” said Ms. Brady. “I would not say that we are not doing something because of this project, but it might just be something being done next year instead of this year. There’s nothing critical that the school is postponing because anything that really should be done and needs to be done, we will find a way to do it. Our roofs, for example, have a ten-year life and can wait until later on to be redone,” she pointed out.


One of the generator pads, outside the Uihlein class building, behind the Allyn (main) building.

Backup generators convert mechanical energy to electrical energy, ensuring that essential systems of buildings, including heating, ventilation, refrigeration, fire alarms, and security continue to function until normal power is restored. Generators fueled by diesel, in particular, have long lifespans of thirty to forty years if properly maintained and are fuel efficient compared to their natural gas counterparts, which are more environmentally friendly with cleaner emissions but are flammable, posing a potential fire risk. “Our generator does have the environmental controls to make it burn cleanly. We will be able to get a lot more power out of our diesel generator compared to propane generators,” said Mr. Burnah.

Regarding student safety concerns during the recent power disruption, Mr. Burnah said, “we had night watchmen around halls because not having power means that we also lose our fire system.” Power interruptions can occur unexpectedly for a variety of different reasons. Thus, a generator capable of operating the school’s equipment can transform the situation from a frantic one to one that resembles a normal day, away from danger.

Northwood has hired Woodhill Electric in North Elba, NY, to build the emergency diesel generator in the area between the Uihlein classroom building and the stairs to the back parking lot. Mr. Burnah explained the school will look into options for generators to cover Bergamini and the House as well, hopefully starting in spring next year.

Making sure that students, faculty members, and staff on campus are safe and comfortable is crucial during a power outage. Constructing an emergency generator will not only ensure that Northwood’s population is calm and relaxed during a power loss, but also that they are protected from fires and weather conditions.


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