When the Lights Go Out Preventing and Preparing for a Blackout

It began last August with noncompliance with energy regulations in Ohio, and within hours, much of the Eastern Seaboard - including the city that never sleeps - came to a standstill. Although some areas of the city recovered power faster than others after the blackout of 2003, the question remains: Will it happen again? What has been done to prevent it? And most importantly, what can a building do to keep residents safe in the event of a blackout?

Before pushing the panic button (which wouldn't work during a blackout anyway) co-op and condo buildings can follow several simple measures to not only conserve energy but also prevent losing power altogether. With conscientious energy consumption and the efforts of the New York State Independent System Operators (NYISO) and Con Ed, future blackouts of such magnitude should remain only a very remote possibility.

According to Carol Murphy, vice president of government affairs and communications for NYISO based in Albany, the power problem last summer originated in Ohio and cascaded eastward from there. "It was First Energy Utility in Ohio that did not follow the operating rules," she explains. Unfortunately, Murphy says, those operating rules are not mandatory in many areas of the country. "[First Energy Utility] violated a number of those operating rules. The blackout was largely preventable, if the people in the Midwest had complied with those standards and taken action before the problem spiraled out of control."

While we here in New York City may not be able to single-handedly prevent another citywide blackout, there are certain steps that can be taken to lessen the impact of another occurrence and reduce the chances of people in multi-family buildings being injured in a blackout. There are several safety tips that should be communicated - via meeting, seminar, newsletter, bulletin board, or e-mail - to all residents of multi-family buildings in the area, regardless of whether they're owners, renters, or subletters.

Be Prepared

The first step toward surviving a blackout or other emergency unscathed is to be prepared. According to the American Red Cross, apartment-dwellers should assemble essential supplies, including:

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