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Spring on UT Knoxville Campus - April 4, 2017. photo by Kellie Crye Ward

Update, 8:30 a.m.: Power to SERF has been restored and the building will reopen at noon today.

UT’s Facilities Services Electrical Services unit has been working around the clock to restore damaged electrical switchgear in the Science and Engineering Research Facility that took down power to several buildings on the Hill.

“The equipment we’re dealing with is extremely dangerous, high-voltage equipment,” said Dave Irvin, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Services. “If it’s not handled properly, it can be life-threatening. Our crews are working as fast as they can to restore this critical service, but we’re making sure to do it with deliberate haste.”

The building is expected to reopen with power at noon Monday.

The building has been secured and access is limited to Facilities Services personnel. Temporary power has been provided to critical research in the building. Staff are posted at entrances to escort faculty to their research spaces.

The Electrical Services team is performing high-voltage work on electrical switchgear installed in the mid-1990s. The team has cleaned components and rebuilt pieces of the switchboard in an attempt to bring the unit back online, and is in contact with the manufacturer to find component pieces. An area at the rear of SERF is being cleared to install new switchgear using a crane.

“Our team is made up of qualified and certified high-voltage lineman,” said Roy Warwick, director of Utility Services. “They do work like this on daily basis. Our people have decades of experience working with high voltage and in emergency situations.”

A professional licensed electrical engineer is leading the team working on the repair, Warwick said.

Four other buildings on the Hill—Ayres Hall, Dabney-Buehler Hall, Min H. Kao Electrical Engineering Complex, and South College—are scheduled to be without power for two hours Sunday evening to reconnect SERF to the circuit.

A permanent solution is being planned. Facilities Services have been working with the engineering consulting firm West Welch Reed Engineers and Vreeland Engineers Inc. to evaluate the scope of the issue from Friday morning.


Karen Dunlap (865-974-8674,