Con Edison Meets Hurricane Sandy’s Challenge

Ross Sandler

Every four hours around the clock, beginning Tuesday, October 30, 2012, workers from every part of Consolidated Edison’s territory reported to senior management on the status, needs and plans to restore service to Con Edison customers. The reports came in to Con Edison’s Emergency Response Center set up in the nineteenth floor auditorium at Con Edison’s headquarters at 4 Irving Place.

The first reports were sketchy assessments: what was happening and where. As the storm receded, the terrible numbers started to come in. Midland Beach in Staten Island and Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn were devastated. A storm surge knocked out the East River steam plant, caused an explosion at Manhattan’s 13th Street transmission station, and flooded office towers on Water Street. Trees downed wires all over Westchester County, blocking roads and preventing crews from getting through. Brighton Beach was flooded. Con Edison’s Manhattan workout locations were under water, but Con Edison’s vehicles were safe; Con Edison had removed them to the high ground of Union Square 24 hours before the storm hit.

There was steady, intense professionalism in the Emergency Response Center as the reports kept arriving. A Con Edison worker returning home from a twelve hour shift was robbed at gun point. A mutual aid crew working on a 13,000 volt overhead line failed to follow safety rules; they were sent home to North Carolina. Site safety became a concern, so Con Edison sent trained office workers to downed wire sites in the field. A gasoline shortage threatened to prevent workers from getting to work sites; tankers of gasoline were ordered. A work camp sleeping mutual aid crews was set up at Citi Field in Queens. A hush came over the Response Center when a dog was reported to have been electrocuted by a downed wire.

Eleven days after the storm, the video display in the Response Center charted a constant increase in restorations of power. Con Edison crews had restored electricity to 1,012,316 of the 1,054,972 customers blacked out by Sandy and the following Northeaster.

The extraordinary professionalism, preparation and dedication shown by Con Edison’s executives and by the 14,000 workers in the field were reflected in the successful restoration work. Later there will be investigations and reviews of performance as there should be. In the meantime, as this is written, the hard, house-by-house restoration work continues in the field.

Ross Sandler

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