September is National Preparedness Month, and those preparations extend to the science areas of the Lab. Last year the Lab was faced with two Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPSs), which provided unique challenges to a large scientific community such as the Lab. This week we talked with two of the Mission Support Officers who went through the PSPS experience last year and have been preparing for more this season.
Asmita Patel is Deputy Division Director for Operations in the Accelerator Technology & Applied Physics Division of the Physical Sciences Area. She spent many hours last October in the Lab’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) preparing for a shutoff of power, then more hours coordinating the methodical effort to bring equipment in the Area safely back on line.
How was the experience of working collaboratively within the EOC?
Teamwork at its best! The first PSPS was unprecedented, and we had to achieve vertical launch. All Lab Operations and Scientific divisions collaborated effectively to power down the equipment, ensure a safe and secure mode throughout the PSPS, and work with a truly dedicated Facilities group during re-energization. All the Mission Support Officers helped each other, and my existing network of relationships across the Laboratory proved extremely helpful. We were all committed to bringing everyone back to work safely.
What was the biggest challenge you faced last year with the PSPS?
Asmita: We were still bringing equipment back up from the first PSPS when we had to begin planning for the second one. Coordinating site access for staff who needed to check on labs or equipment was a challenge at first. IT came up with a great solution creating a live editable Google Sheet that allowed EOC staff to organize site access. By the second PSPS, we knew our roles and worked even more smoothly and effectively together.
What will you do differently this year if the Lab needs to go into shutdown and then return to full operations?
Asmita: The biggest additional challenge this year would be observing COVID-19 hazard control measures while working together in the EOC and not being at the same table or room. Finding ways to make the most of virtual presence will be important. For longer duration PSPS, selected scientific/technical staff will need to conduct walkthroughs to check status of research labs/equipment. Prioritizing re-energization of key infrastructure such as chillers and HVAC will be required to expedite the restart of research equipment.