Heating Plant: Life on third shift
Andrew Sylvester has been with Illinois State for nine and a half years, with the last two and a half years as the assistant chief engineer working third shift. The third shift team has four stationary engineers—Scott Crowell, Larry Maxhimer, Cesar Rolon, and John Fleming—and one stationary fireman, Bill Carey. The fireman monitors all the systems and reports any abnormalities. Engineers are out responding to the alarms and performing repairs and preventive maintenance. Sylvester serves dual roles, working as an engineer as well as the assistant chief engineer.
The teams at the Heat Plant ensure the University’s heat and air flow system is performing sufficiently and efficiently in all the buildings. This is a physical technical job as they repair pumps, dampers, and fans, in addition to the whole plant system. Third shift operates from 11 p.m.–7 a.m. every day.
Starting at midnight, all facility related calls are answered by this team, which can lead to a vast array of responses. It can be unlocking a door, covering a broken window (to maintain safety until it can be replaced), or finding missing manhole covers. If the team cannot adequately secure the area in question, it initiates the call in process for the particular trade group who will need to come in for an immediate repair.
Every summer the Heating Plant engineers clean each room and lounge unit for the safety and security of Illinois State students. That is about 4,000 units! This is a large undertaking and often leads to interesting finds of what makes its way into units throughout the school year. The team has a very efficient process. The third shift takes apart the units, first shift cleans everything, and second shift puts them back together.
Working third shift on a college campus is a vastly different experience than working first or second. For starters, there are sometimes fewer people around. This is certainly true in terms of co-workers. Typically, their interactions are with each other, Illinois State police officers and building service workers. The majority of all other interactions are emails and voicemails. As for student interactions, it varies by day of week and time of year. During the school year, Wednesday and Thursday nights are big social nights. In the summer it is very quiet. During mild temperatures, the Quad is still a place to gather and socialize late into the night.
Who are these incredible people who work under the cover of night? The majority of these gentlemen are former military members with a background in boilers, construction, or mechanical fields. They enjoy being free to do their job without a lot of interruptions, except for emergency calls. They are very understanding of each other. When working third shift, it can be challenging to get regular sleep each day, which drastically affects all aspects of their lives. Their office potlucks are usually smaller in portion, due to the understanding that eating a lot in the middle of the night can disrupt their natural body rhythms and affect their ability to sleep when they get home.
Some team members have a personal preference for working third shift. Others do it because the hours work well with their family lives, allowing them to be active with their children during the day and work while they sleep. Regardless of their reason for working third shift, we are appreciative of the work they do. While the work is unseen by the vast majority on campus, they are extremely instrumental in maintaining a safe and comfortable campus environment for everyone.