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NYC-Post Blackout Analysis

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  • NYC-Post Blackout Analysis

    NYC finds flaws with itself in post-blackout analysis

    NEW YORK (AP) - Police and fire stations lacked sufficient
    backup power, telephone systems failed and the public address
    system in a key city building didn't work, according to a city
    report on its response to the August blackout.
    The fire department's dispatch system in Brooklyn collapsed
    after backup power-generating equipment at Verizon's midtown
    Manhattan office went down, according to the report, "Enhancing
    New York City's Emergency Preparedness," and the Emergency Medical
    Service response failed citywide.
    The problems at the Verizon office interrupted cell phone and
    landline service, including at the city's Office of Emergency
    Management's emergency operations center, police precincts,
    hospitals and firehouses during the blackout.
    The blackout, which began the afternoon of Aug. 14 and lasted
    about a day, engulfed much of the Northeast and parts of the
    Midwest and Canada.
    "The city was fortunate that the loss of power occurred in nice
    weather during daylight hours, was of limited duration and occurred
    at the end of the workweek," said the report, which was issued
    A Verizon spokesman said that the report put too much blame on
    the phone company but that over the past month it has purchased
    several new backup generators.
    "We should not lose sight of the real problem here - a power
    blackout of unique proportions," spokesman Daniel Diaz Zapata said
    in a statement. "Verizon was not the cause but rather a victim
    like everyone in the Northeast."
    Diaz added that "Verizon's network performed astonishingly
    The blackout cost the city between $700 million and $1 billion,
    according to the analysis, conducted by city officials and
    corporate executives. The number of serious fires during the
    blackout was six times the normal number, largely because of
    accidents with candles. The number of deaths attributable directly
    to the blackout was unclear.
    While the report concludes that most things went relatively
    smoothly during the blackout, it found that much of what did go
    wrong was due to lack of communication between city agencies and
    insufficient backup power supplies.
    "Many city offices and private sector functions did not have
    sufficient backup power in place, including key agencies such as
    the departments of health, sanitation, transportation and
    neighborhood firehouses," the report said. "A small percentage of
    emergency generators failed to operate, either failing to initiate
    power generation or ceasing to operate during the blackout due to
    mechanical failure or exhaustion of fuel supply."
    Also, radio repeaters and radio systems failed due to lack of
    backup energy and the mayor was unable to communicate with the city
    effectively because City Hall - which did have backup power -
    lacked the equipment and space to operate as an emergency command
    Finally, when power went out at the Municipal Building, which
    houses 16 city agencies and some 2,250 employees, the public
    address system failed because there were no backup batteries or a
    The report offers 35 recommendations, including strengthening
    the city's command center structure; reordering the 911 system so
    callers can report incidents to the fire or police departments; and
    developing a "private wired and wireless communications
    Several of the proposals would likely be prohibitively expensive
    for a city that faces a $2 billion deficit in the upcoming fiscal
    "Some of the things are practical, that you'll be able to fix
    easily, some long-term, some things, maybe the real world is you
    just say, 'it would be nice if, but we probably won't in the real
    world get there,"' Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Last edited by NJFFSA16; 10-29-2003, 03:34 AM.
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  • #2
    Although The report seems to be very thorough there is one large contradiction in there that struck my eye since in past employment I had to dispatch sometimes.

    The report notes that there were major failures of the 911 system and private industry based telecommunication systems. (Verizon) Many land lines failed, people with cordless phones couldn't use them as the reciver requires power to work and cell phone service was sporatic due to power failure at cell tower sites. If the people were able to get through on a phone the overload of the system lead to many getting busy signals or no signal at all. And after awhile phones died and couldn't be recharged.

    However as noted under the communication section:
    "The City's call box system relies upon antiquated premise based equipment that is costly to maintain and does not take advantage of modern technologies. While not a problem during this power outage, this system adds signifigant risk to both the Police and Fire Departments Dispatch."

    Now while they are correct that the ERS boxes and BARS boxes don't use the latest in communications technology, I think the important fact was completely overlooked due these beurocrats...and that is the Fire Alarm Boxes did not fail due to that very feature of an indepent alarm system, that has no association with Verizon or any other publicy owned telephone company. While many people could not use their phones due to the failure of "modern technology" the Call boxes continued to work allowing neighborhoods to notify the Fire Dept. If anything it reduced the risk of fires going unreported.

    Also I remember that the fire alarm offices being completely independant in each boro was seen as a positive feature post 9-11. Many major corporations re-distributed their resources after 9-11 and the Fire Dept command organization was de-centralized as well after 9-11. Now there is a call to centralize everthing again.

    Either way a federal lawsuit prevents the removal of the boxes and I think the concerns of 9-11 will trump the veiled attempt at combining FD and PD dispatching systems.

    That is just my view. The report seemed to be full of alot of fluff but there might be some positive results to come of this...like back-up generators for firehouses...but that will probably be forgotten anyhow.



    • #3
      Good report...all I know it was dark out.
      NEVER FORGET 9-11-01
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      FF. Michael Roberts Ladder 35 *
      FF. Michael Lynch Engine 40
      FF. Michael Dauria Engine 40

      Charleston 9
      "If my job was easy a cop would be doing it."
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      • #4
        Discovery is going to have a special on the blackout called "Anatomy of the Blackout" or something like that. I think it would be a funny joke if they entire show was just a black screen with voices.
        IACOJ Agitator
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        • #5
          Hehehe...they should film all the interviews with night-vision cameras
          IACOJ Canine Officer


          • #6
            Haha =].

            During the blackout, the first thing to go (besides the power) was my nextel. But again, I heard reports of nextels working all over manhattan, and in some areas in the subway!
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