Report says emergency generators in bad shape (Michigan) : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread$01.frm


Report says emergency generators in bad shape

County officials say they can cope with millennium bug without the backup power sources

Monday, December 13, 1999


A new report says Bay County's 911 emergency generators are in bad shape, but County Executive Thomas L. Hickner says they're good enough to handle any potential year 2000 power outages.

The report, from RC Associates Inc. of Saginaw, evaluates three emergency generators for radio towers that send signals to fire departments in the county.

Among its findings:

A generator at 11 Mile and Seidler roads is about 27 years old and "at the end of its useful life expectancy." The county doesn't have an owner's .manual for the generator and it has "moisture problems."

A second generator at 11 Mile and Cody Estey roads also is 27 years old, "at the end of its useful life expectancy" and missing an owner's manual. The machine vibrates excessively when it runs and an enclosure is rusted.

A third generator on the eighth floor of the Bay County Building needs to be larger if officials go ahead with a proposal to add a county data center to the machine's backup load. The generator's location also makes it difficult to supply it with propane fuel.

Hickner said there's no need to worry. He said the report is only part of an ongoing maintenance review of the county's communications systems.

"We have not received any reports or information to suggest that there is likely to be a failure in the system," Hickner said.

"It's like owning a used automobile that continues to operate well, but you know that sooner or later you're going to have to replace it and that is what this report essentially identifies."

The report recommends all three generators be replaced, but doesn't give a cost estimate.

Michael K. Gray, the county's administrative services director, said he thinks the replacement cost would be "expensive," but there's no rush.

"We need to deal with this in the next 12 months," Gray said. "We don't need to deal with this in the next two weeks, because they're not going to quit working."

The study is on the agenda for a Tuesday meeting of the county Technologies Committee. The meeting is at 11 a.m. on the fourth floor of the county building, 515 Center Ave.

Jan. 1 holds the potential for power outages due to programming in some computers and microchips that recognizes only the last two digits of a year, reading 2000 as 1900. This could cause such devices to crash when the clock strikes midnight.

Hickner said the so-called millennium bug isn't an issue with the existing generators, because they don't have computer chips.

In the event commercial power is lost, Hickner said the generators will work because they've been tested regularly.

"I think it's important that the generators work and it's important that the towers are functioning, but this report was not produced as a result of a failure," the executive said.

There have been failures of 911 generators before in the county. When windstorms knocked out power in May 1998, a generator switch failed at 911 Central Dispatch, causing the center to lose power.

But the switch has since been fixed and two new backup generators have been purchased for the center, said Gary Brozewski, acting 911 director. The old generator is now used only for the Law Enforcement Center, which houses the Bay City police and the county sheriff's departments.

Paul A. Cormier, the county's emergency services coordinator, said he doesn't forsee any problems with the old generators.

If one should fail, the county's Central Dispatch center can switch power to another tower and still transmit. Each tower is connested to an alarm that sounds if power is lost.

If all of the generators fail, Central Dispatch could call fire chiefs in the county who could dispatch firefighters by phone, Cormier said.

"The likelihood of that happening is minimal," he said.

Plus, there are two or three other towers in the county that have newer generators, Cormier said.

-- Homer Beanfang (, December 13, 1999


While reading reports of electrical failures the last year, we have been struck by how often the back-up generators fail. Very common. Too bad these guys haven't been keep track of these types of barometers.

Also seeing how so many contingency plans rely on phones and other systems prone to failure.

Gonna be interesting indeed ...

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (, December 13, 1999.

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