Williston State College installs new emergency generator

A new emergency generator has been installed at Williston State College, just in time for the season of blizzards and sub-zero temperatures.

The $400,000 500-kilowatt generator holds 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel and will provide power and heat to Stevens Hall, the main building on campus, which also includes the college’s cafeteria. In the event of a massive power outage, the college could serve as a potential emergency shelter for Williston, according to a press release.

James Foertsch, vice president for business services at the two-year college, said school officials began pursuing funding for the emergency generator after a widespread power outage in Williston and the surrounding area that lasted up to four days following an ice storm in May 2011.

At the time there were 200 students living on campus who were without power and heat, said Foertsch.

“It snowed and rained but it was 30 degrees,” said Foertsch. “If it happened (on a day with sub-zero temperatures) it would be pretty devastating.”

Foertsch said the college decided it needed the emergency generator to protect the health and safety of its students and also to provide emergency services to the community.

Since the college didn’t have money in its general budget to pay for the generator, president Ray Nadolny approached the State Board of Higher Education for approval. The request then went on to the Legislature, which met in special session in November 2011. The Legislature gave its approval.

“With Williston growing into a large community, having this type of support and back-up is absolutely critical, not just for the college, but also for the community,” Nadolny said in the press release.

Williston State College is currently revamping its emergency preparedness plans to include future use of the new generator, according to the press release.

Foertsch said no plans have been finalized, but health care providers in Williston have also suggested that beds might be set up in the gym in the event of an emergency to provide health care services.

College officials hope the generator will be used rarely.

“We haven’t had to use it yet, but we’ve only had it in place for less than a month,” said Foertsch. “Ideally, our goal is to never use it.”

Foertsch said he would estimate that the generator might see use every year or every two years.

“It’s a great backup plan to have in place,” he said.