Next Phase of Cleanup

Floors, walls, ceilings, books, tables, desks… check.

Next up, electronics.

The cleaning process at Youngsville High School has moved to the next phase.

The clean-up is in response to damages allegedly resulting from vandalism by three former YHS students.

Electro-Mechanical Recertifiers Inc. (ER) out of Pittsburgh is handling the cleaning of electronic and electrical equipment that was affected by the vandalism. There were 10 ER employees on site Tuesday; as many as 20 will be involved in the process at the height of operations. The company started on Monday, July 22, and Project Coordinator Dan Rafferty expects the work to take three to four weeks.

The initial estimate from the Warren County School District for this phase of the work was $238,000.

The main problem in the school was the discharge of most of the fire extinguishers in the school and the resulting release of corrosive ammonium phosphate dust.

The dust coated and infiltrated many electronic devices.

Electro-Mechanical personnel will evaluate each piece of equipment. Some are obviously beyond their powers to rehabilitate. The rest will go through cleaning and testing.

The equipment is inventoried and boxed, then moved through the process.

Each box is moved to the company’s mobile lab, ER-1, which is one of two trailers parked in the YHS parking lot.

Inside, boxes are opened one at a time. The equipment is taken out. Then both box and equipment are cleaned.

“This is a dust… a particulate,” Rafferty said. “We’re super sensitive about cross-contamination.”

“The box is always the first thing that gets cleaned,” Taveras said. “We don’t want to put something clean back in a box (that isn’t).”

The box is placed in the spray cabinet. Compressed air is sprayed all over the box to set loose any particles. The cabinet has a vacuum hood that catches the particles.

The contents of each box move through several stations. If necessary, the electronics can be dried in a heating cabinet or washed in the ultra-sonic acid wash.

Because of the nature of the problem at Youngsville, those features will not be used on many devices there.

Instead, Electro-Mechanical personnel will use compressed air to remove particles from the outside of each device, while using suction to remove those particles. In the case of computer CPUs, each case is opened and the same process applied to the interior.

Monitors, CPUs, keyboards, mice, and cables all go through the process. “Everything gets vacuumed,” Taveras said.

Then each item is moved along. Monitors are plugged in and tested. CPUs are booted up. Most fail because of the way they are configured by the district, Taveras said. A flash drive is used to run PC Doctor software on all CPUs that fail to boot to determine if the problem is the setup or something more serious.

Mice and keyboards are cleaned and every fifth one is tested beyond watching for errors when the CPU and monitor are tested.

Once a computer is running, Taveras runs a basic diagnostic. That takes about five minutes.

“Every fifth one I run the entire diagnostic,” he said. That’s 20 minutes.

While Taveras is checking each machine, Dipesh Pokhrel is prepping and cleaning another.

If the equipment works as expected, Taveras puts a green sticker on it – every piece.

By then, “there’s another one waiting for me,” he said.

He won’t run out of work soon.

“We’re over 500 on the item count of electronics,” Project Lead and Inventory Specialist Cindy Rafferty said.

That’s just the first floor and the number includes about 200 computers with at least five separate pieces – CPU, monitor, mouse, keyboard, cables – each.

The trailer called ER-1 is a major part of Electro-Mechanical’s operation.

“ER-1 is a fully functioning commercial loss disaster restoration lab,” Rafferty said. “It was built around the needs of disaster restoration.”

The equipment was put through full paces in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. “We restored power and IT to the Intrepid (formerly an aircraft carrier, now a museum),” Frank Taveras said.

The company handled several buildings in the New York area, including the JP Morgan Chase office, he said.

Other items cannot be moved to ER-1. “We have in-place items,” Dan Rafferty said.

Mobile hepa filters and carts carrying the necessary tools are moved about the school to clean mounted projectors, wood shop electronics, the server cabinet, the intercom system, every device in the boiler room, and other stationary items.

ER Electrician Ed McCarty is in charge of cleaning the building’s electrical distribution system, including the mains and panels. A sub-contractor was brought in to clean and recertify the fire alarm system.

Although ER personnel work in places that have suffered extensive damages, they are part of the healing process. “Part of the gratification in this job is you’re part of the solution,” Cindy Rafferty said.

The three students facing charges for allegedly causing the damage are scheduled for preliminary hearings Wednesday in Warren County Court.