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Heatwaves, Electrical Outages, and SMEs

By Patrick Schmidt 

I’m going to talk about the weather… Again. In my February blog I talked about our 10 day cold snap – one that affected the entire nation. Early this week we exited a heat wave that kept us in the mid to upper 90’s for 9 days. Yes, in Minnesota we get the extremes during both Winter and Summer.

Air conditioners and ice makers were operating on overdrive from June 3rd to 11th in the North Star State. So, it wasn’t a total surprise when our power went out on Monday morning June 7th. The lights flickered, we were in the dark, and three seconds later the lights were back on. But only half of them were on.

Thinking I knew what the problem was I went to the breaker box and found the light on one of the built-in surge suppressors out. No problem thought my amateur electrician’s brain, I have a home service plan and I pulled out my mobile phone.

I called my provider, explained the situation, and the agent said they were very busy on this sweltering June Monday, but I would see someone mid to late afternoon. I was disappointed because our main air conditioning is on the circuit that was out. I needed to act fast.

I spent the next 30 minutes running some extension cords from the outlets that worked to the essential items like the refrigerator and a portable air conditioner. Fortunately, my office was on a circuit that worked so I sat down and made the best of it with emails and morning meetings.

Right around 11:30am as I was typing an email, the other half of the house went dark… Ugh. I would be completely without power until late afternoon at the earliest. But, I wondered, are others out as well? I would come to find out they were, but not because of what I thought.

I walked out my front door to check out the situation and found a utility truck from our local company parked in front of the utility pole that feeds our electrical service drop. The sound of a chainsaw was echoing between the houses and I could see branches falling. “What a time to trim some trees,” I thought.

But something else was happening here. Apparently, tree branches had fallen on the service line and had broken the splice on one of the live cables that feeds my house, but not the other or the neutral wire so I had some power. That was until the electric company turned it off to make repairs. But how did they know? A subject matter expert (SME).

I have a delightful couple living across the street from me named Andy and Annette. Andy is a semi-retired mechanical contractor who specialized in heating and air-conditioning. He knew EXACTLY what was going on when half of his power went out and I did not. He called the utility company for a downed wire and they were out to the utility pole in two and a half hours, long before my home service provider could have been onsite.

Even if the home service provider were able come earlier, they would have diagnosed the problem as the broken line, and I would need to wait even longer for the utility company to arrive.  Andy saved my family time, spared us a very uncomfortable number of hours, and quite possibly rescued all the food in my refrigerator.

What’s the moral of the story? Your IT environment often requires both a maintenance service plan AND reliable SMEs. Service plans are valuable and needed to address ongoing issues in both calm and chaotic situations. However, keeping a seasoned SME close at hand can provide a host of other benefits from configuration advice to critical situation management.

Information technology SMEs are special. They grow over a period and generally have unique knowledge that is difficult to document. How do they do it? SMEs apply specialized training and add it to years of experience to deliver the extra peace of mind so many organizations lack.

Do you have SMEs who you can call on? LRS IT Solutions offers a wide range of SME services from both OEMs and our own certified staff. We offer expertise in hardware, software, and a variety of services from analytics to security.

If you need to augment your staff, contact us by filling out the form below and we will match you with one of our seasoned experts.


About the author

Patrick Schmidt is a Technology Lifecycle Management Specialist with LRS IT Solutions. For more than 20 years, he has been helping customers get a firm grasp on their asset and contract management with a combination of comprehensive service level analysis and lifecycle management best practices.