There’s nothing that keeps a facilities manager for a school district up more at night than fear that an unexpected electrical fire may break out and cause harm to schoolchildren. Yet, John Maguire, Facilities Maintenance Manager for Millard Public Schools, was faced with that exact scenario a few years ago when a circuit breaker and distribution panel exploded at Montclair Elementary.
Miller Electric was called to come onsite then and inspect the situation. TEGG General Manager for Miller Electric, Kurt Hamilton, said the fire may have started from a fuse block connected to a heater that burned out, causing flames to shoot out of a metal breaker panel and set a broom on fire.
Broom was Fire’s Only Victim
“Thankfully, the broom was the only victim in the fire,” Hamilton says. “We worked with John Maguire and other school officials as well as Morrissey Engineering and the manufacturer of the damaged electrical equipment to devise a plan for repairing and replacing the equipment and returning the students to school safely.”
Miller’s team worked fast enough for students to return just three days later. For Maguire, the entire experience afforded him and other school officials the opportunity to consider the value of a preventative electrical maintenance program.
“We wanted to make sure something like this didn’t happen again,” Maguire says. “Through Miller Electric’s preventative maintenance program, the district can rest assured that its electrical equipment is up to code, properly maintained and safely able to support students’ learning.”
Preventative Electrical Maintenance Program IDs Issues Before They Become Problems
There are 35 schools and three support buildings in the Millard Public School District. Keeping the electrical equipment and systems at all of them running optimally required checking each of them on a regular basis. Miller Electric determined the most efficient way to perform comprehensive maintenance checks would be to create a rotating schedule so that each school was examined every three years.
“We started originally with the oldest schools and moved to the newest,” Jeremy Overman, Electrical Risk Consultant for Miller Electric, says. “The nice thing about getting on a regular maintenance package is that you catch the expensive stuff up front and prevent it from being worse.”
Overman says it often takes an incident for businesses and others to see the need for preventative maintenance on their electrical systems.
“Most of the time, these systems run for years and years without incident and without fail, and preventative maintenance is an expense, so it’s natural to delay,” he says. “But, really it’s just like getting an oil change for your car. If you never do it, eventually the engine will blow up. The same principle applies with electrical systems and equipment.”
IR Scans, Ultrasonic Tests and Visual Inspections Part of Every Check
Miller Electric’s preventative maintenance visits are thorough and reveal issues that could create significant problems for businesses, schools, healthcare facilities, data centers and others.
“In the first go around they found a lot of pretty major issues that could’ve taken the buildings down,” Maguire says. “The maintenance checks prevented major outages and other problems.”
Problems are uncovered through ultrasonic tests that detect noise anomalies; infrared scans (IR scans) that look for abnormal heat indicators; and visual inspections to identify code violations.
“We look for things that aren’t right, like missing knockouts and bushings not because we’re the code police, but so our clients can be in compliance,” Overman says. “We open the panels and look at all the connections. When we find an issue, we run voltage and current diagnostics to determine what is causing it. Then, we make our recommendations for repair.”
Customers Know the Cost and Can Budget for Repairs
Overman says it’s up to customers to decide what repairs they want to make. Facilities managers know exactly what the issue is, what potential problems it could cause, and what it will cost to fix them. During the first year of a maintenance program, those costs could be higher, but over time, as the most critical issues are addressed, issues decrease in severity and so do the costs associated with them.
“For Millard Public Schools, all the school buildings have been examined one and a half times,” Hamilton says. “The items we are catching now are small and generally speaking, so are the repair costs.”
Maguire says he appreciates the service Miller Electric provides and the value they deliver to the district. “They communicate well with you. They always let you know what’s going on and where they’re at. The preventative maintenance checks are well worth the investment. I’d highly recommend them to any facilities manager, especially if you oversee a critical facility like a hospital or data center.”