Date: Tue, 1 Apr 86 22:16:18 EST
Subject: More inter-system crashes
Rich Hammond writes, in part:
> ...The problem: Turning off the electric power
> caused the emergency generator to come on, but the generator was cooled by
> water which came from the [shut off] main...
Apparently there were quite a number of vaguely analogous situations in
the Eastern Seaboard blackout of 1965. Samples:
One hospital had an excellent emergency generator that cut in promptly, but
it was in the basement. The hospital was in a low-lying area, and the
basement was kept dry by constant pumping. You guessed it: the pumps were
not on the emergency power bus, and the emergency power died as soon as
the rising seepage reached the generator.
Another organization (hospital?) discovered the hard way that its diesel
emergency generator had an AC-powered electric starter.
Most modern power plants need housekeeping power to function, and in
particular to start up. With the whole grid down, a chicken-and-egg
situation developed very quickly. The New York area got startup power
from a little power plant on Long Island, whose alert operator had
violated standing orders and simply opened all the circuits -- including
the power-grid tie-line -- when his meters went wild as the grid collapsed.
Boston got startup power from MIT; the MIT EE Dept. generators had been shut
down for the day, but apparently the MIT people managed to put together
enough car batteries (!) to bootstrap themselves.
Practically the only people whose emergency preparations really did work
flawlessly were the professional paranoids: the military and the phone
company. Even the air traffic control centers were dead; it was just as
well that it was a clear night with considerable moonlight.
Henry Spencer @ U of Toronto Zoology