Hats Off to Con Ed

Teresa Hansen, Associate Editor

“Due to equipment problems in lower Manhattan related to the emergency at the World Trade Center, electric service between West Street and the Hudson River south of Chambers Street has been suspended. Gas and steam services in that area have also been interrupted. Con Edison crews are continuing to work closely with all emergency personnel.” This is the first announcement Consolidated Edison of New York (Con Ed) released on September 11, 2001, shortly after the terrorist attack. I’m sure the company had no idea just how bad the situation was at the time this release was written.

As the day progressed additional announcements were released, most of them identifying more damage and more outages. By the end of the day, most of Con Ed’s transmission and distribution infrastructure in lower Manhattan was destroyed. Two of Con Ed’s substations were permanently damaged and approximately 12,000 customers were without electricity. In addition, approximately 270 steam customers were without service and 1,400 customers were without gas service. And, to add insult to injury, more than half of Con Ed’s customer service and emergency telephone lines were out of service.

Much has been written about this devastating event and the effects it had on families, rescue workers and volunteers. Numerous reports about the many heroes who have surfaced during this trying time have also been written. I haven’t, however, seen many reports about the Con Ed employees and contractors who worked around the clock to restore much needed electric service in the devastated area. These individuals can also be classified as heroes. They reacted immediately and worked around the clock for days to help New York City get back on its feet.

Within 24 hours of the attack, Con Ed had 140 crews in lower Manhattan inspecting and testing equipment, preparing work locations and coordinating efforts with the appropriate emergency agencies. On September 14 at 11:28 p.m. Con Ed made a “small but significant” step forward when it restored power to its Park Place network, one of several networks that was shut down by the attack. This step came after more than 700 Con Ed workers labored around the clock and stretched nearly 20 miles of high-voltage cable through the streets and trenches of lower Manhattan.

By the next day, September 16, the utility had added additional customer service telephone lines and had a total of 1,900 employees working to restore power. In addition, the utility had thousands of people working behind the scenes helping coordinate and manage the effort. On September 17, Con Ed had stretched a total of 26 miles of high-voltage cable and had restored service to more than 5,000 customers.

The latest release I obtained, dated September 19, reported that 1,800 more customers had been connected the previous day and more than 33 miles of high-voltage cable had been laid around the damage zone, on the streets and in trenches dug to shield the wires.

Besides laying lines and installing new equipment, field crews were required to cut and isolate damaged electrical cables buried beneath the debris. Some were also responsible for installing temporary generators at various locations. One need only turn on the television and see the pictures at “ground zero” to get a good idea of the horrible conditions in which these field crews were working. It is also important to remember that in many cases these individuals were also dealing with personal losses and tragedies.

As I said before, much has been written about the heroic efforts of so many people throughout the past few weeks. I just wanted to use this space to write one more piece about some of these everyday heroes. Con Ed and its employees are to be commended for their remarkable performance during such a difficult time.

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