High-Rise to Stay Closed for Testing

Times Staff Writer

It won’t be business as usual at the Great American Building today because the high-rise will be closed while it undergoes a 12-hour power test to be sure that its trouble-plagued electrical system has been adequately repaired, authorities said Sunday.

Repair crews--working round-the-clock since the last electrically caused accident forced a building evacuation about 5 p.m. Thursday--completed installation of a new main power cable from the basement to the 4th floor of the 24-story structure about midnight Sunday. Power tests--running the system at 150% of rated capacity--were expected to begin early today, according to Jack Rhodes, a safety director with the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration. “If, during the power test, nothing gives way, the building can be opened up again,” Rhodes said. “That will be Tuesday at the earliest.”

A spokesman for building managers Coldwell Banker Co. said that tenants will be allowed to return to their offices briefly on Monday between 6 a.m. and noon to retrieve necessary work materials. All tenants entering the high-rise must be escorted on a one-on-one basis, the OSHA officials cautioned.


John Hermanson, OSHA area director, said that inadequacies in the building emergency exits, including lack of adequate lighting in the stairways, have been corrected by the building management and suspected asbestos contamination has been checked and found to be controlled.

Further work must be done on the building’s emergency evacuation plans, Hermanson said, and on the electrical system, source of several fires in the past month and three building evacuations last week.

About 450 Great American Building employees who normally work in the 6th Avenue and B Street offices have been transferred to seven other of the institution’s 61 county locations, according to Ken Ulrich, vice president for public relations. He said that banking operations at all the other offices and at the main headquarters buildings in National City are unaffected by the building closure.