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What happened with this wiring?

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by jordandare, May 14, 2019.

  1. jordandare

    jordandare Member

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    Some cyc lines have been dead for a few years.

    Curiosity got the better of me, decided to pop open terminal access(power was cut to the electric before opening and verified to be off), was greeted with this surprise:

    IMG_3073.JPEG IMG_3074.JPEG IMG_3075.JPEG IMG_3076.JPEG

    How the hell would this have happened? Apparently it's been like this for quite a long time and was deemed "safe".

    This is a newer facility(built mid-2000s) so it's not like it's an old wiring issue.
     
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  2. DrewE

    DrewE Member

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    The screw(s) were loose or there was otherwise a poor connection, with a correspondingly higher resistance. This causes a voltage drop and power to be dissipated at the terminal, making it really hot until something gives.

    RV electric panels sometimes suffer from similar things, due to vibration causing the screws to work loose over time. I'd guess here they weren't properly tightened down when built and installed; D122, D127, and the neutral for 131 look like the main culprits, with adjacent wires affected.
     
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  3. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    Cyc light loads and leaving them on for long periods and heat may exacerbate the situation. Was this box right above a halogen light? And what Drew said - less than perfect connection.
     
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  4. jordandare

    jordandare Member

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    I'd say the terminal access is about... maybe foot and a half from the S4 MultiPar.

    I'm going to push for facilities to fix this but I'll need to come up with reasons for it to be fixed besides the fact we have a dark spot on our cyc. They declared it "safe" as far as I know, whatever that means.
     
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  5. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    Do you know loads? Using S4 Multi Par - 3 or 4 X 575 or 3 X 750?

    I would definitely not declare this safe. Not with that much char.
     
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  6. Malabaristo

    Malabaristo Well-Known Member

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    If the full statement was "This is safe because those circuits are locked/tagged out with no possibility of ever being energized..." then maybe you have the harder argument of justifying why you really need every circuit to work. If there's any possibility of anyone trying to energize and use those circuits, then they are definitely not safe as-is. Any licensed electrician who looks at this and doesn't see an urgent problem should have their license revoked in my opinion. Even in the first scenario, I can't imagine thinking it's a good idea to leave it that way long-term without a plan to budget for eventual repairs.
     
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  7. jordandare

    jordandare Member

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    I believe it's 3x575W, but not entirely sure. There's 3 lines coming out of it with a 4th empty clamp for another cable.

    I believe the full statement was something along the lines of "It looks safe but it's beyond my skillset to repair" from facilities.

    I checked the dimmer and all the circuits are energized, just by visual look at the breaker switches.

    This isn't my only safety concern. The emergency floodlights and exit signs all have dead batteries. The emergency UL924 inverter has completely dead batteries and will switch over for a whopping half a second before shutting off. Fly system has not been inspected since the facility has opened. One of the smoke hatches is locked closed and has a tarp over it because the cable to close it snapped. The curtains were last flame treated when they were installed in ~2005.

    I'm just a student but also an employee at the same time at the facility, and the facilities department has brushed off my concerns basically.

    I have no idea how I'd get them to act on all of these issues. Don't want to step on peoples toes and piss em off. Don't think they'd listen to me either.
     
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  8. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    Often, color sorting is done first, then you go back and tighten everything down before closing it up. That part never happened. Junction box inspections rarely happen, but you found a big problem, took photos, and reported it. If they don't fix the problem, then whoever turned it down is VERY liable if there was a fire.
     
  9. Malabaristo

    Malabaristo Well-Known Member

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    Being a student can really be a disadvantage when it comes to getting people to take you seriously. Usually the best approach is to find a faculty member that will listen to you and get them to apply the necessary pressure to get something done about this. Not stepping on toes means you're polite about how you say things (don't trash-talk the person who didn't understand the problem), but it shouldn't mean that you choose not to point out obvious safety hazards like this. Don't be afraid to keep pushing until you get a response from someone, and don't forget to document your conversations to help limit your personal liability.

    Who is the manufacturer of the distro? Another approach would be to send the photos to them and ask for an official opinion you could pass on to facilities. I've had the pleasure of writing letters like that in one of my past careers, and I would expect most people in that sort of role to be more than happy to help out.
     
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  10. Les

    Les Well-Known Member

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    This is a good practice, especially in the professional world. However, I question whether a student really can have any personal responsibility in a case like this.

    Nevertheless, it is good idea to learn to CYA for those times where you do have a higher level of responsibility. So I'm definitely not saying don't do that. But I also wouldn't want the OP to feel like they are obligated to do more than to simply act as an informant.
     
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  11. Malabaristo

    Malabaristo Well-Known Member

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    He did say that he was also an employee of some sort... You're probably right that he should still be reasonably safe, but it never hurts to be over-cautious around people making sketchy safety decisions.
     
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  12. Les

    Les Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, I remember the same setup back when I was in high school. We were employed (on an as-needed basis) to tech concerts, events, etc. Not sure if this is the same arrangement OP has, but likely so.

    And I absolutely agree. Over-cautious is a good (and arguably the only) mindset to be in when facility and audience/performer safety is a factor. I just don't want to cause OP too many restless nights over this. I remember worrying about such things in high school and it affected my academics, social life, etc.
    Observe, report/document, badger if needed. Probably the best lesson here is that (adult) people can also be lazy and won't always fulfill their responsibilities. Stay on them but don't carry the baggage.

    Just my opinion of course :). I just know how tiring it can be to take on the responsibilities and short-comings of others. It will really wear on you if you let it.
     
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  13. DavidJones

    DavidJones Active Member

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    Someone posted the correct answer above, the terminals worked loose over time, and this is from resistance/current/heat damage. It is the precursor to a fire. A trained monkey could cut off the damaged ends and re-terminate the connections if there is slack/service loop somewhere in the circuit(a very WELL trained monkey). EDIT: New terminal strips would probably be needed as well.

    That being said, schools ignore these things because they don't have the budget to fix them. It's up to you, but Social media shaming and a call to the AHJ can go a long way. It might end up with the theater being closed completely. Weight your options. At a minimum, I would recommend that all the terminals be checked and tightened by a qualified person, and any damaged circuits are locked out in some way. locking out the breaker, or removing the dimmer module and locking out the rack for safety. I don't know if there are blank dimmer module block-off plates, but it could be an option.
     
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  14. jordandare

    jordandare Member

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    SSRC was the distro manufacturer.
    Without revealing too much(as if my username doesn't!), I work in the technology department while being a student, so while the theater isn't my primary area, I do get paid 3x overtime when they need someone to watch over it :).

    I also work on the Low Voltage wiring(DMX, RFU, etc) as a volunteer part.

    I've had my boss notify the facilities director in addition to myself e-mailing the facilities director, if nothing happens or a response isn't received within a reasonable amount of time, I'm going straight to the AHJ and giving him a uh, total "tour" of the facility.
    I've done alot of things, replaced outlet wall-plates, hell I've replaced about 700+ft of broken DMX wiring in conduits myself, but this is pretty beyond what I'm going to touch, even opening the cover was a bit of a hazard to me even if we made sure the power was off.

    Unfortunately it doesn't look like there's a way to lockout the breaker on the dimmer module. Neither could we remove the modules since they are all dual modules and there's a mix of working and burnt lines on the modules. I suppose I could have them disconnect and cap off the wiring on the bus bar, assuming it hasn't blown itself or destroyed the dimmer module since there's a whopping 0VAC on the terminals.

    If AHJ doesn't work, I sure as hell know media will get them to do something.


    Thank you guys for all your help.
     
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  15. Malabaristo

    Malabaristo Well-Known Member

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    ETC makes a metal bracket that allows a lock/tag to be placed on breakers for individual modules (not individual breakers). On something like a CD80 or D192, you may be able to use the sort of clip-on lockout device designed for a regular breaker panel since the breaker handles stick out. Neither of those would prevent someone from pulling the entire module and putting a different one in place, but would be better than nothing. A well-labeled airflow module would be an arguably equivalent option.

    Be careful about going nuclear on social or traditional media. It can get results, but it will also cause a lot of personal friction and is likely to shut the place down in the short term. Definitely a last resort...

    And you're right to be cautious about fixing it yourself: while a trained monkey certainly could handle it, in most jurisdictions that monkey would need a license to do this kind of work.
     
  16. MNicolai

    MNicolai Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    Be prepared to be fired, denied any future work there, and blackballed by anyone who's a friend of a friend of a friend if anyone at your facility.

    No they won't.

    It's a highly technical issue impacting no one until/unless it impacts someone. Media will only care if a fire breaks out and there's a documented history of negligence and someone dies as a result or Little Suzy gets disfigured. In all likelihood nothing will happen except those circuits might become inoperable and if the wires melt a little more either the breakers will trip or the smoldering will be contained in the raceway.

    I'm not advocating you stick anything in an electrical outlet to prove a point that dangerous things are perfectly safe but don't overplay your hand by trying to get your venue in trouble with the law. It's not worth it, it won't do much, and you'll have to move to Siberia to get your next gig. Pick your battles and be articulate in a productive tone free of arrogance and condescension. Those terminal strips are 30ยข pieces of plastic with screws in them. If you're that irritated then order some new ones from SSRC and make the swap and trim the charred wires back an inch or two, reterminate, and call it a day. If you're not comfortable doing it I'm sure it's not hard to find a friend of a friend willing to donate 30 minutes of their time.

    I say all of this as someone who did something similar when I was working a New Year's gig at a janky bar in college. My girlfriend -- the daughter of a firefighter -- felt compelled to share my off-hand remarks about the venue to her mom's fire chief with whom I actually had a great relationship and who called me a couple times to inspect theaters with him. Turned out I was a 1/4 mile into someone else's jurisdiction and when the rural AHJ showed up he was actually a fishing buddy of the bar owner, didn't understand or care how to survey a bar/concert venue, and the moment AHJ left (citing nothing, and not even bothering to look), I was kindly invited to leave in a firm tone of voice.

    Still want to make a stink? Go for it and get it out of your system but people talk and when it doesn't go your way you'll be radioactive. No one will want you around if they think you'll throw them under the bus on a whim.

    You only get a couple reset buttons in your career. Use them wisely and make them worth it.
     
  17. EdSavoie

    EdSavoie Well-Known Member

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    I'm not had cause to snap at a ControlBooth member so far during my time in this site (Bernard what's his face does not count) but this "throw caution to the wind and don't tell anyone about it" message you've given to a new member brings me very close.

    If someone is perfectly O.K with "Oh hey, these dead circuits are attached to charred wires, doesn't seem important" then that person should not be in a position to make that decision.

    By failing to act on the emergency lighting, they are already going against laws around egress lighting, so going above their head is the correct choice to make 100%.

    I'm sorry you had to deal with an incompetent AHJ who was chummy with the bar owner, that's really crappy you got burned over it, but that's no excuse to go and tell someone that the right call is to get in line and sing the same tune as everyone else.

    I know where my priorities lie, what choices I've made, and who I've pissed off because I've committed to keeping myself, my fellow crew, the audience and the cast safe on the stage I'm working on. Yeah, it's a shitty position to have to bite the bullet, especially in a Highschool environment, but at the end of the day, even if the problems presented are the complete extent of it, it's indicative of a failure with those who are supposed to be keeping everyone safe.

    Yeah sure, the OP could probably do the repair work on their own, but what does that accomplish? He'll be gone in a year or two and then everything is back to normal, and critical systems further decay without care.
     
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  18. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    I think the most constructive step(s) the OP can take is to send some photos of the terminal strips to the manufacturer and determine how much to buy the parts to get it fixed. Maybe also a local electrical contractor can ballpark labor and extra parts. Idea is to be proactive in generating a solution that the powers that be can run with. That often works wonders and getting stuff done.
     
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  19. DrewE

    DrewE Member

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    Sometimes sending an actual, physical, paper letter to people gets a better response than merely talking to them, or even e-mailing them. Sometimes, if they still don't care, it helps to send a letter to whomever is supervising them (the principal, the school board, etc.). The tone in my opinion oughtn't be anything other than helpful and constructive; simply laying out the facts about the shortcomings (i.e. our emergency lighting doesn't work because the batteries are all dead, our lighting raceway has unsafe burnt wires that could cause a short-circuit and fire, the rigging system has not been inspected for x years when industry standard is annual inspections) and briefly explaining why they are important safety issues is all that is needed. It's not as though these things are exorbitantly expensive to correct, particularly when compared with the potential liability should something go terribly wrong.
     
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  20. Les

    Les Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps OP's parents/guardians could attend a school board meeting, or otherwise get involved in this endeavor? Angry parents tend to get gears turning a heck of a lot faster than a concerned student ever could.

    Does the district have an EH&S department?
     
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