The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Power Outage

UMass Central Heating Plant











A power outage may seem like a relatively routine emergency situation, but loss of electricity can present a range of serious hazards and challenges on a large university campus. From laboratories with critical research functions to dormitories that house hundreds of students, a sudden power outage can present major risks to safety and wellness. The following information is intended as a guide for UMass Amehrst students, faculty, staff and visitors to both prepare in advance for outages and to respond appropriately if they occur.

Although the University generates much of its own electricity, UMass does share the same power grid as the rest of the area.  Electrical outages triggered by electrical infrastructure issues under the control of Eversource will play a role in the electrical supply on campus.  Duration of power outages on campus are sometimes dependent on the type of problem and its source. The cause and scope of the outage will affect how quickly both UMass Electrical Utilities and Eversource crews will be able to restore service.  In all circumstances, there is a period of time that the electrical utility responders must evaluate the reasons behind an electrical outage and plan for a safe repair and the restoration of service.



  • Sign up for UMass Amherst Alert
  • Keep a flashlight with spare batteries immediately accessible
  • Consult our Emergency Supply Kit guide to prepare yourself for prolonged outages.
  • Turn off all computers, monitors, printers, and other electronic devices when they are not in use.
  • Ensure you know at least two ways out of your building; whether your building is equipped with a generator; and whether there is emergency lighting in your area.
  • Do not overload power strips.



If there is an emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately.


  1. Do not call 911 to report a power outage unless there is an emergency.
  2. Call the Solutions Center at: (413) 545-6401 to report a localized power outage.
  3. Provide your location (room number and building), name, and the nature of the incident.
  4. Follow any instructions that you receive from Facilities personnel.


  1. If there is no imminent danger, remain calm and stay where you are. Faculty should instruct the class/lecture to remain in place and await the restoration of power. Most power outages on campus only last 10-15 minutes.
  2. Pay close attention to UMass Amherst Alerts.
  3. If you do not have any emergency lighting in your area, secure your area and move to a location of the building that does.
  4. Take the appropriate action to protect sensitive equipment. A power surge may occur when the electricity is restored.
  5. Follow any instructions you may receive from Facilities and Emergency Personnel.
  6. Do not light candles or other types of flames for lighting
  7. If you are in an elevator that stops working, stay calm. The elevator should return to a predesignated floor under emergency power and the doors will open automatically. Use the intercom or the emergency button inside the elevator to notify the UMass Police Departmnet if you are not able to exit the elevator.
  8. The electronic access control systems that secure all residence halls and most administrative buildings have a battery backup system and will generally operate in a power outage for 4 to 6 hours.
  9. If asked to evacuate, secure any hazardous materials if it is safe to do so, and evacuate. Consult Evacuation Procedures for additional information.

Emergency generators

Some buildings on campus are equipped with emergency generators that activate automatically in the event of an outage. If your building has a generator:

  • Become familiar with the location of electrical outlets provided with emergency power

  • Ensure that critical equipment is plugged in to emergency outlets

  • Do not use emergency power outlets for non-critical equipment if it can be avoided



If there is an emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately.

If there is no imminent danger:

  1. Pay close attention to UMass Amherst Alerts.
  2. Avoid a power surge by turning off and/or unplugging non-essential electrical equipment, computers, and other voltage-sensitive equipment or appliances.
  3. Check cooking appliances to ensure that they were not left powered on and unattended while the power went out.
  4. Do not touch any electrical power lines and keep others away from them. Report downed power lines by calling 9-1-1



After power is restored and you return to normal operations, it is recommended that any sensitive equipment, processes, and research be checked for proper operation.  It is also recommended that you discuss the power outage with your team and identify the strengths and weaknesses of how the incident went. Develop a departmental plan for how to respond to a power outage in the future . Encourage your staff and faculty to sign up for UMass Amherst Alerts.





  • Keep your lab safety card updated on your door.Make sure to designate an emergency contact person for your lab. This person should be available for contact 24 hours a day should an emergency arise during a power outage.
  • Make sure your area has a battery-powered or hand-crank flashlight.
  • Do not leave open chemicals in the fume hood when the fume hood is unattended. 
  • Always safely store chemicals after use.
  • Be sure to put essential equipment on emergency power circuits. These circuits have red cover plates and are powered by an emergency generator at each lab building.
  • Make a list of equipment that must be reset, reprogrammed, restarted, or recalibrated once power returns.
    • Post the list in a highly visible spot, or multiple spots.
    • Program equipment that operates unattended to shut down safely during a power failure and not restart automatically when power returns.
  • Identify an emergency source of dry ice, if you have items that must be kept cold.
    • Do not use dry ice in walk-in refrigerators, cold rooms, or other confined areas.
    • Note: Refrigerators and freezers will maintain their temperature for several hours if they are not opened.
  • Secure all vital equipment, records, experiments, and hazardous materials if safe to do so
  • Store all chemical in their original or marked containers and fully open all fume hoods. If this is not possible, or natural ventilation is not adequate, evacuate the area until power is restored.