UCSB radio station KCSB-FM 91.9 experienced almost two hours of dead air on Wednesday night after a power failure crippled Storke Communications Building and 75 percent of the rest of campus.
For KCSB, the blackout couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time. Not only did the electricity outage interrupt the station’s annual membership drive, but the backup generator, which normally keeps KCSB on the air, failed to engage.
“The university is supposed to be maintaining our generator,” Associated Students Associate Director of Media Elizabeth Robinson said, “and [the generator] is not generating.”
The university assumed responsibility for the upkeep of the generator approximately a year and a half ago, Robinson said. Prior to that, KCSB was responsible for the generator’s continued functioning.
“When we were having it maintained ourselves it worked just fine,” she said. “When the university took it over, it stopped working.”
As well as powering the radio station and its transmitter uplink, the generator also delivers power to Storke Tower. Of particular importance during a power outage is the maintenance of red aircraft warning lights located immediately below the tower windows. According to Robinson, the Federal Aviation Administration requires these lights to remain on at night to prevent aircraft from colliding with the tower.
UCSB Lead Electrician Jim Morrison said he did not have faith in the KCSB generator.
“We maintain it and we’ve been trying to milk it along,” he said. “But [KCSB] and A.S. don’t have the money to replace it. … We’re looking for the funds to replace it.”
The radio station had a vested interest in maintaining the generator, but was dissuaded from doing so by the university, KCSB Engineer Bryan Brown said.
“We were told under no condition to touch the equipment,” Brown said, “and we complied on the condition that the station would remain up during a power outage. … This actually arose when we were testing the equipment, and [Facilities] got mad at us.”
KCSB office manager Ted Coe maintains that the failure of the generator was unforeseen.
“It’s been tested and it was working and for some reason it’s not working [now],” he said.
Personnel at the radio station are worried about long-term financial consequences of the blackout. KCSB receives no money from the university directly; instead, it is funded by a student lock-in fee and by contributions solicited over a 10-day period in the Fall Quarter. The loss of power occurred during this annual “membership drive,” when the station was actively soliciting donations from its listeners.
“There are lots of inopportune times for this to happen,” Robinson said. “But when we’re trying to raise money for our various needs, it’s especially daunting.”
Still, Robinson said she has little resentment towards the university for the power outage and backup generator failure.
“Whatever’s going on here, it doesn’t need to be made into a conflict,” Robinson said.
Staff at KCSB may extend the membership drive an extra day to make up for the interruption, but are optimistic about the results of the drive. KCSB General Manager Maiya Evans even sees the blackout as a possible boon.
“Hopefully people [will] be so freaked that KCSB went off the air that they’ll pledge more,” she said.