Utility Failures

A utility failure is any disruption in the services necessary for the safe and proper operation of a building, including; electricity, water, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, telephone, internet, and water utilities. A utility failure may be wide-spread or limited to a specific building or area within a building. Power and utility outages may be advertised and scheduled in advance to perform preventative maintenance. In the event of a utility failure laboratory ventilation and equipment may not function properly, laboratory classes and laboratory research activities may not be held whenever a power outage or major utility failure occurs.

Many life safety systems (i.e., fire suppression and alarm systems, security systems, and emergency lighting) are dependent upon the proper operation of utilities to function. Utility outages demand that all activities within the affected spaces be suspended until utilities are restored. Many university buildings are equipped with an emergency generator; however, emergency generators are designed to supply power to critical building systems, not to serve as an alternative source of energy to support normal operations. Despite the apparent normal operating condition, all buildings under emergency generator power should be evacuated unless extenuating circumstances exist, such as: severe weather, violence on campus, downed power lines adjacent to or blocking building exits, a hazardous materials spill, or other condition which makes it unsafe to exit the building.

The following procedures must be followed whenever a critical (i.e. power, water, or heating, ventilation and air conditioning) utility failure occurs:

  • Report the utility failure to Facilities Management Customer Service (703) 993-2525
  • Discontinue all non-essential work until utilities are restored
  • Evacuate the building if safe to do so and do not return until the building is deemed safe for re-occupancy


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