power grid nagios?

I see it's power failure season again.

While I was lying there in bed between 8:55AM and 9:20AM listening to my far-too-loud UPS beep, I was wondering a few things: among them, how hard it would be to disconnect the speaker in the UPS, and also, oh yeah, why the power was out again.

You'd think that PG&E would have a page explaining what happened. Maybe even an RSS feed. Not that it would do me any good, but I'm curious about these things. Is there such a thing? I couldn't find one.

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22 Responses:

  1. babbage says:

    Some APC UPSen have a "test" button that doubles as an "STFU" button.

  2. xrayspx says:

    Quickly looking at their site, it looks like if you're a commercial or industrial customer, which you are, you can get notified of these sorts of things:


    FWIW, Sprint has the same notification service for mobile phones, though it's a little broad. I get email notification of every Sprint maintenance window or unplanned outage anywhere in the country, which is a bit much.

    • noweb4u says:

      How do I get on the sprint list?

      • xrayspx says:

        I just asked my boss, and he has no idea how we came to be on the list. I guessed it was because his name is on the bill, but I'm on it as well.

        I did find this page on Sprint's site which does have the notification option, along with a bunch of other business options that I know we don't have. I'm not sure if you have to be a business customer or not, but it's worth a call to your Sprint rep or Sprint store to find out.

        I'd make them all into an RSS feed or something, but I'm pretty sure Sprint wouldn't really be that happy to see that.

  3. tjcrowley says:

    I sometimes get alerts about power outages and rolling blackouts on http://alertsf.com, which goes to my SMS. It's an extension of the same system that sends alerts to police and fire about major disasters that we used to get over the packet radio TTY we had in the big yellow house. The granularity you want is probably not there yet, though.

  4. arkarkark says:

    ripping the piezo electic buzzer out of UPS' is easy peasy and doesn't seem to have any adverse affects other than not being able to hear the replace the battery alarm.

    I just pull on the noisemaker and put a soldering iron on the other side of the pcb.

  5. boggyb says:

    Last time this happened to me, I gave it five minutes and then phoned the electricity company (or rather, the company I pay - the two are no longer the same in .uk). After outwitting their IVR system I got through to an actual person, who then went and found out what happened for me after a few minutes. All quite good, except for the fact that I was using a cellphone and so paying $lots per minute (in .uk caller pays).

    • had a power outage in chicago on thursday, followed the same procedure. i just moved a few weeks ago into a "frontier" neighborhood (read: not-yet-gentrified, poor) and of all the neighbors who came outdoors to alert each other that the power was out, i was apparently the only one on a standard mobile plan, i.e. not a minutes/pay-as-you go arrangement, and was therefore elected to make the call.

    • belgand says:

      After working in customer service I can safely say that the vast majority of people you can be connected to are significantly dumber than any IVR you're likely to run into and generally have far worse information.

      Depending on the company and problem odds are also usually about 1 in 5 that the person you talk to will make your problem worse. It's around 1 in 20 that they might be able to fix it and 1 in 40 that they'll do so correctly, efficiently, and be able to correct what caused it in the first place. The last one is almost completely impossible in the majority of cases though.

  6. I had a peek into PG&E's SCADA systems at a previous job. Even if they
    wanted to give you this information, which they don't, they couldn't
    because they don't have it. You know how you use "lazyweb"? They use an
    equivalent "lazynagios". When enough calls come in to the report/status
    phone number (800-743-5002) from the same general area, they send
    someone out.

    • jaydubbee says:

      SF residents may recall that the Mission substation was on fire for three days before anyone at PG&E operations in Daly City took note. A 4-day outage in some parts of SoMA followed.

  7. a_0001 says:

    Here in Glendale, the Water and Power Commission gets a monthly report on the Electrical Service Reliability Indices, with items like:

    December 11, 2007. At 11:45 a.m., the Scholl #7 feeder relayed due to a short circuit caused by a squirrel crossing an overhead riser at the intersection of Glenoaks Bl. and Glenoaks Canyon Dr. affecting 228 customers for 13 minutes.

    There's nothing real-time, though.

    • jwz says:

      If I could at least learn that in exchange for my sleep interruption, some rodent paid with its life, that would be nice to know.

  8. As someone else pointed out, the "speaker" is generally a piezzo. In that case, a few drops of super-glue into the little hole on the top of the assembly either mute it completely, or cause it to buzz not-unpleasantly.

  9. valdelane says:

    http://www.caiso.com/1c8e/1c8ec00815360.html contains some RSS feeds regarding the power situation of the entire state. http://www.caiso.com/outlook/outlook.html shows actual and forecasted power usage. However, CAISO won't have rodent-shorted-the-wire detail, unless it caused a massive cascading failure.

  10. taiganaut says:

    I know it's possible to shut the beeper off in software with at least some APC UPS devices. Their software and apcupsd can usually do it, but if you're not using either of those maybe there's a little utility somewhere.

  11. killbox says:

    disabling the ups speaker is easy on most models. its a little piezo sounder, pry the top off the little black housing and most of them will drop out the little brass and ceramic disk which is the sound unit.

    a few units will have the disk with wires snip one and you are done!

    if you just want to make it more quiet scotch tape over the hole in the little black housing drops it by probably 10-20db.

  12. better late than never?


    doesn't sound like there was sizzling rodent death, however.

  13. wfaulk says:

    If you're using apcupsd, you can tweak the alarm status in the UPS by using the BEEPSTATE config directive to update your UPS's EEPROM.

    • jwz says:

      I've got an APC Back-UPS LS 500 plugged into USB on an iMac 10.5.2, so I strongly suspect that diddling the firmware on the UPS would be far more of a pain in the ass than I'm willing to go through.