It’s the worst nightmare of contingency planners at resort casinos – one of the busiest weekends of the year and the power goes out; and more than 1,000 room guests have to be relocated to another property.
That’s the scenario that started to unfold at the Rio about 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 28 when a fire at a service elevator knocked out power to about 500 rooms on floors 22 to 39 at the Masquerade Tower. The following morning, power went out to another 500 rooms in the Masquerade Tower while the Ipanema Tower remain unaffected.
In time for New Year’s Eve, 56 rooms in floors four through seven were cleared to open and the remaining tower wasn’t fully open until after the New Year’s on Jan. 5. The VooDoo Steak, VooDoo Rooftop Nightclub &Lounge and VooDoo Zipline did not open until after the holiday as well.
The good news for contingency planners was the casino and all of its restaurants and shops were unaffected by the power outage and operated normally with the exception of fewer guests staying in the 2,500-room hotel.
The bad news is 950 room guests had to be relocated off property, and that grew to about 1,500 since rooms didn’t start coming back on line until Jan. 3.
“We do have a plan that if we lose power for an extended period that we work closely with our eight other properties on the Strip to handle any needs to relocate existing guests or incoming guests,” said Caesars Entertainment Executive Vice President of Communications Rich Broome.
That plan immediately went into effect for finding rooms for guests and putting them in complementary cabs to drive them to their new hotel. Guests who had yet to arrive were called or sent e-mails to make them aware of the situation and what hotel they were relocated to, Broome said.
Only about 50 guests couldn’t be relocated to a Caesars Entertainment property and were sent to other resort casinos, Broome said.
“One thing you have during the holiday, especially at New Year’s Eve, the no-show level is higher than normal,” Broome said. “Taking into account the expected no-shows, it fortunately worked out so we were able to relocate guests to other properties.”
When the power went out at the Rio, the hotel plan went into place to work with NV Energy and electricians to get the power up and running as quickly as possible, Broome said.
Backup generators were in place to deal with the initial power outage at the Rio but water from the sprinkler system got into an electrical conduit and went down and took the backup generator with it, Broome said.
In November, power was lost at the Paris Las Vegas at 9 a.m. and didn’t get back up until just before midnight. Hotel guests had to be relocated that day to other Caesars properties since power was lost to the entire property. In that case, construction worked drilled through the resort’s main power lights.
“You rely on the backup generator, and in these two incidents it didn’t work,” Broome said. “If the backup doesn’t work, you have to work through the quick recovery and guest relocation and guest handling until the primary generator is back up and running.”
Dealing with the loss of power is one of the biggest contingencies a casino can deal with it.
When an outage in a central Las Vegas neighborhood cut power to more than 200 customers, including Palace Station, the casino’s backup generators kicked on during the 90 minutes the lights were out.
“Two scenarios were very different because ‘out’ outage was maybe an hour, and it was an NV Energy issue and we were on a limited backup generator,” Station Casinos spokesman Lori Nelson said in comparing it to the Rio. “We didn’t have to do any evacuation or anything like that.”
Some slot machines went down temporarily and when backup power was on, there’s not full lighting but enough for the casino to be safe and keep operating without being a major disruption, Nelson said. Security staff escorted any guests who requested it out to their vehicles, she said.
“We were very fortunate it was a short-term issue and thanks to great operations and security teams and support from backup generators,” Nelson said.
Station has 11 hotel casinos and nine smaller properties, and the facilities team works closely with all of the utility companies, Nelson said.
“What’s really key is the excellent relationship that our operations, facilities and security teams have with local utility companies and law enforcement, too; and the plans we have in place,” Nelson said.
On Jan. 11, MGM and New-York New York lost power for about an hour when strong winds blew debris into a substation. A backup power system immediately kicked in and supplied power to the hotels in the interim so hotel guests weren’t affected, according to MGM officials.
NV Energy spokeswoman Jennifer Schuricht said her company works closely with its largest customers, including casinos. It provides a major account executive who gives personalized service and offers inspections from power quality engineers to review electrical equipment and provide recommendations on how to protect and improve it, she said.
NV Energy has programs to prevent outages, Schuricht said. It treats underground cable to reduce failures and extend its life. It replaces older underground cable systems and transformers. Vegetation is cleared to prevent outages and transmission lines are patrolled to prevent any service interruptions, she said.