Well, life is starting to settle into some kind of a routine now. I’m starting to feel pretty comfortable with the way that turnover is going. There is a huge amount of information to absorb, but luckily my predecessor is staying a few days later than she originally intended. I’ve pretty much taken over the day to day operation of the network, plus I’m starting on a few projects that should improve communications with the outside. I really don’t think I’ll ever be able to work in a normal office after this again!
As a winter over, I’m part of the fire brigade on station. We have three teams that have different jobs when the fire alarm goes off. Team one is made up of the first responders. Their responsibility is to get to the alarm site as quickly as possible with portable fire extinguishers and to try to contain any fire before it spreads any farther. The second team, which I’m a member of, is supposed to report to the fire site after donning full bunking gear, including breathing gear and air tanks. We’re supposed to actually go into buildings that may be on fire, or filled with smoke to conduct rescue operations, and extended firefighting with larger chemical extinguishers. The third team is supposed to keep us supplied with fresh bottles of air, and fresh extinguishers.
The day after we officially took over fire duties from the old winter overs, we had our first drill. Luckily for me, it was under the dome where I live, so it took me about two and a half minutes to get downstairs from my server room, to my dorm upstairs in the same building, to the fire scene right behind my building. Talk about easy! Anyway, we had a good drill, and we learned where our weak points lay. I’ve got to practice with my flame hood, and air mask a little more before I’ll feel 100% OK with using them together in an emergency.
This morning we had our first real emergency. During the winter two of the three new generators that were installed last summer failed for reasons unknown. That’s not a big deal, because we still have one new generator which we’ve been running the station off of, plus the old power plant, and finally the emergency generation out in summer camp. Well, today the third generator died (just try to get on site warranty service down here!), and we lost power to the entire station for about 30 minutes while the engineers got the old power plant back online. That made things pretty interesting in my area while I tried shutting down all our systems before my battery backup ran out. Anyway, we’re still running on the old power plant, until a Cat rep gets down here sometime in the next week. He was actually scheduled to be here anyway to fix the other two generators, but this just made it even more important.
Life here isn’t all disaster planning and recovery though. There is a tradition on Friday nights where the atmospheric scientists throw a slushie party in the clean air building. The clean air building is located upwind of the station, so the wind blows all the exhaust and other atmospheric pollution away from this sector. This leads to the snow being extremely pure and unpolluted. Slushies are alcoholic snow cones made from the cleanest snow in the world. The scientists bring in huge buckets of the stuff inside, and we mix it with our choice of alcohol that is donated to the station by the residents. Yummy! Walking back to the dome after a couple of those can be quite a challenge!
Anyway, my predecessor leaves on Thursday, so I’ve got a lot of studying and reading to do before then. Have a great Halloween back in the states, and I want to see pictures of any embarrassing stuff that happens!