Blackouts and Power Outages Dealing With the Dark

In August 2003, much of the American Northeast was plunged into darkness when the power grid serving the region failed. Through power was restored within a day or so—to much of the affected area—millions of dollars in losses and damages were incurred, and serious questions arose about the state of the power grid serving that part of the country. Fast-forward to 2012, and Superstorm Sandy struck the Northeast region again, knocking out electricity in tens of thousands of buildings and destroying homes up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

Chicago itself had its share of outage events as well: A trio of blackouts in the early 1990s, and weather-related blackouts around the area hit residents hard. While events like these may not be controllable, having a clear, well-rehearsed emergency management plan for power outages in one’s condo is something every board can—and should do.

Know the Drill 

The first thing that all buildings need to do is to train their building staff, says Hans Herrmann, executive vice president of business development at Alternative Utility Services in Chicago.

“When the power is out, it’s usually at night, and the management office is closed,” Herrmann says. For that reason, property managers' contact information needs to be available to the building staff, and there needs to be a 24-hour phone number where a management person can be reached.

In addition to that, every building person needs to know what to do in case of an emergency blackout. “Everyone should know the plans,” Herrmann says. And while condo meetings don’t tend to be well attended by the building residents as a whole, everyone who calls the building or HOA home needs to know the procedure, too. This can be explained to them when they move into the building, and can be reinforced to them via letters and postings in the mailroom. “You should know your options,” Herrmann says.

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