Are You Prepared For the Next NYC Power Outage?
Posted on July 19, 2019 in Blog
Con Edison workers are frantically trying to correct the electrical issue that led to the Manhattan Blackout on Saturday ahead of this weekend’s heatwave. According to Insurance Journal, the five hour blackout sparked mass chaos throughout the city, leaving nearly 73,000 people in the dark.
The lack of preparation and dangerous conditions New Yorkers experienced during those long hours could have been a recipe for disaster. These were some of the most concerning incidents reported:
- Traffic Dangers: Traffic signals were out from West 42nd Street to West 71st Street between the Hudson River to 5th Avenue, prompting the closure of these streets to protect drivers. Pedestrians put their safety at risk by volunteering to direct traffic to help prevent accidents and relieve congestion.
- Mass Crowds: Carnegie Hall and most Broadway theaters were closed, forcing large crowds of people onto the sidewalks and streets. Restaurants and businesses also closed, leading to more patrons wandering the streets than usual.
- Stuck Elevators: Several people called the New York Fire Department for help after becoming stuck in elevators. Residents with mobility issues were trapped in high rise buildings without the ability to use the elevator.
- Heat Dangers Air conditioning units across the city were out. Groups classified as high risk for heat-related illnesses could have been in grave danger without immediate access to emergency services.
- Disabled Subways: Hundreds of strangers were stuck underground in the dark when four subway stations went black. CBS New York reported that an immediate panic overtook some commuters, while others relied solely on their cell phones to lead themselves and others off the trains.
Additionally, residents and business owners across the city suffered significant financial losses from the blackout. USA Today estimated nearly 29 tons of food were thrown away to protect consumers from food borne illnesses. Other businesses lost revenue from closing early or canceling concerts and shows, leading to tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue.
What Caused The Manhattan Blackout
Not one, but two parts failed in the utility system made to prevent massive blackouts in NYC. The New York Times reported Con Edison’s President, Timothy Cawley, is still puzzled by the “extremely unique” malfunctions. According to Cawley, a burning electrical cable at West 64th Street and West End Avenue set off a chain of events that quickly highlighted significant deficits in the system created to detect and isolate these types of problems- the reason is still unknown.
Thankfully, zero injuries or fatalities were reported during the blackout last weekend, but New Yorkers are not in the clear. While Con Edison continues to troubleshoot their system, scorching temperatures remain in the forecast for NYC. Heatwaves create the perfect opportunity for blackouts and brownouts due to the overwhelming power used to run millions of air-conditioners across the city. With triple-digit temperatures coming to NYC this weekend, smaller-scale power outages could be possible.
Steps To Prepare for an NYC Power Outage
New Yorkers can reduce their family’s risk of injuries during a power outage by thinking ahead. Curbed New York suggests all residents and visitors follow these emergency preparation steps to stay safe during a blackout:
- Create an emergency preparedness plan for your home. Ready NYC is an app that can help you get started by compiling everything your family needs to know when a disaster strikes.
- Scatter plenty of emergency lights around your home to avoid the need for dangerous light sources such as candles, and to preserve phone batteries.
- Assemble easily accessible emergency kits that include items such as drinking water, first aid supplies, medicine, emergency equipment, non-perishable food, more flashlights, batteries, a radio, glow sticks, and/or emergency whistles.
- Buy portable emergency supplies to keep in your bag when out in the city in case you are stuck in an elevator or subway.
- Utilize local cooling centers to prevent heat illnesses.
- Notify your emergency contacts immediately about a power outage if you require mobility assistance.
- Stay updated on power outages by using resources such as the Notify NYC app to keep you informed on the emergency.
- Have a backup travel plan for your commute. Dockless bikes are great options when the power goes out.
- Work together as a community to help those in need and provide support and supplies whenever possible.
Most importantly, if you find yourself caught in a blackout, stay calm. Panicking can lead to unnecessary stress and poor decision making. If you require assistance, try texting for help first as cell service can become extremely backed up during a citywide emergency.
How To Help Prevent Power Outages
New Yorkers can also do their part to prevent the possibility of a blackout in their communities. These are the types of habits residents should avoid that can overload electrical systems in the summer:
- Running air conditioners on high speeds, at low-temperature settings, for long periods.
- Leaving the fridge and freezer door open.
- Opening the fridge and freezer door often.
- Leaving unused appliances plugged in.
- Using too many appliances at once.
- Overusing large appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines.
For more information on preparing for emergencies in New York City, the NYC Emergency Management website has tons of resources to help residents prepare for safety during multiple types of disasters.
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Bloomberg, Lynn Doan. “ConEd Faces Heat After Times Square Goes Dark.” Insurance Journal.(Received July, 17, 2019) https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/east/2019/07/15/532235.htm
“NYC Blackout: Subway Passengers Plunged Into Darkness During Manhattan Power Outage.” CBS New York. (Received July, 17, 2019) https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2019/07/14/new-york-city-blackout-subway-loses-power/?fbclid=IwAR095hSYWwM-IEF8Q7VHG568rtnoLXdtgE7WYd_ripmeZOdtS7wHFFRuZok
Jones, Charisse. “The New York City blackout was actually bad for the environment.” USA Today. (Received July, 17, 2019) https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/07/16/blackout-how-climate-affected-new-york-power-outage/1734529001/
Sanchez, Olivia. “Triple-digit temperatures could bring blackouts in New York City, DC and Chicago.”USA Today. (Received July, 17, 2019) https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/07/16/heat-wave-could-cause-power-outages-new-york-city-chicago-d-c/1749257001/
“Guides and Apps.” NYC Emergency Management.(Received July, 17, 2019) https://www1.nyc.gov/site/em/ready/guides-resources.page
“Notify NYC App.” NYC Emergency Management.(Received July, 17, 2019) https://www1.nyc.gov/site/em/resources/notify-nyc-app.page
Plitt, Amy. “How to prepare for a power outage in New York City.” Curbed New York. (Received July, 17, 2019) https://ny.curbed.com/2019/7/15/20693846/nyc-blackout-how-to-prepare-emergency
McGeehan, Patrick. “A Burning 13,000-Volt Cable Touched Off Manhattan Blackout, Con Edison Says.” The New York TImes.(Received July, 17, 2019) https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/15/nyregion/nyc-blackout-con-edison.html