Electric eyes: an electrician’s view of the VP debate
Doug Robison, who has worked as a Washington University mechanic for seven years, will take on one of the most crucial roles in the vice presidential debate: providing power for both the Debate Hall and the Media Center within the Athletic Complex.
To complete the task, Robison will work with the Facilities and Planning Department, where he has been principally responsible for handing electrical operations.
Preparing for and hosting the vice presidential debate has been a large, multifaceted operation for the University, and one large portion of the event’s success depends on the reliability of the power and electrical system at the University.
“We have to power the Media Center, which is basically rows and rows of tables with power going to them and other tables with telephone lines going to them,” Robison said.
The Facilities Department’s job on the night of the vice presidential debate is to make sure that the journalists and media personnel occupying those tables receive the power they need to send out live feeds of the news online from inside the debate.
According to Robison, the department has been in contact with major national news stations, including NBC and CBS.
“We just need to make sure we know who is all coming that night,” he said.
For Robison, the day of Oct 2 will be a busy one.
“We’ll probably get [to campus] around 5 to 6 in the morning,” Robison said. “We’ll be running around, doing some very last minute things, making sure things are going smoothly.”
Although much of the planning has already been completed, Robison says that “last minute things” will certainly come up on the day of the debate.
“I’m not sure what those things are at the moment, but trust me, they always come up,” he said.
According to Robison, the hectic day will wind down for the facilities department an hour or two before the debate commences. By then, everything should be running smoothly and quickly in its course.
“I’ll be assigned to a particular position and basically I’m ordered to stay in that area,” Robison said. “There will be backup generators outside.”
Robison speaks of the procedures for debate night as if he were an old-timer, and in some ways, he is.
“I was here at the last presidential debate four years ago, when I was assigned to a generator,” Robison said. “Things went smoothly then, and I expect it to go smoothly this time.”
Because the University has been hosting presidential debates since 1992, all the arrangements with the equipment, as well as with hired contractors are set to go.
This is not to say, however, that the entire operation will go effortlessly, Robison points out.
“It is a huge amount of work to put this together,” he said. “When it’s your first time going through this, it’s pretty exciting. But about your second time around, once you’ve realized how much work it takes, it is a little less exciting.”
When asked what he is looking forward to the most this week, Robison jokes that he is waiting for Saturday to come, “when this is all over.”
Nevertheless, Robison, a keen follower of national politics, still feels energized for the vice presidential debate today.
“It’s pretty exciting stuff, and especially this year with the candidates we have. It’s exciting to be a part of that history too.”