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Losing Power

The ongoing CL&P fiasco is a further blow to America’s image as a world economic superpower.

Growing up in India, power cuts were as common as sneezes.

While holidaying in the summer at my grandmother’s house, I made an amusing sight for others as I discovered new ways to cool myself when the power was off. Imagine a 5-year-old running at breakneck speed from one end of the room to the other yelling “breeze, breeze,” as the air around stirred and hit her face! My grandma would laughingly say that someone like me should be in America, a land where power cuts are as unthinkable as, say, aliens landing. Or so she had heard.

Even today, one of the common comments I hear when I visit family and friends in India is about America’s efficiency in creating and sustaining an advanced infrastructure, something that India is struggling to emulate. But last week’s CL&P fiasco, which left a good majority of the people in the state without power, made the U.S.A. look more like an Indian village. 

More than the downed trees and power lines that blocked access for emergency workers to reach people’s homes, what’s stunning is CL&P’s lackadaisical responses to the media and elected officials. In India, people call it a “chalta hai” attitude, which works like this: No power? Oh well, what can you do? It is what it is.

But since when was accountability not a part of the American story? We’re talking about an economy that was built on the foundations of cutting-edge innovation and business processes. America is not known for tolerating incompetence and entertaining excuses.

In a world where the U.S. is struggling to retain its position as an economic powerhouse, the image of people — especially the elderly — freezing under piles of blankets to stay warm in their houses is incongruous and ridiculous. That people have to do their laundry and take a hot shower at neighbors' homes is simply not the America we should settle for. And all this for nearly 10 full days!

We are known for our ability to anticipate, not just respond. Our technology processes are sophisticated enough to plan for and execute smart solutions during crisis.

Electricity rates in Connecticut are among the highest in the nation. Have the power company’s profits climbed at the expense of its ability to service customers at such times? I don’t think we should rest until we get to the bottom of this.

Maria Giannuzzi November 11, 2011 at 12:45 PM
The October storm was not the first time winter weather has occurred at Bradley Airport. It was not the first time Bradley has lost power. And it was not the first time flights have been diverted to Bradley. Does Bradley have an effective emergency plan in place for diverted aircraft? It doesn't appear so. I suggest people go online and read the transcript of the Jet Blue pilot's radio transmissions to airport officials. I am certain there are facts beyond what I have included in my comments. But according to all the news reports, one fact we can be certain of is that the Jet Blue passengers were kept on the plane without food, water, or working lavatory facilities for more than 7 hours. Were the passengers kept on board the plane for more than 7 hours because Bradley officials felt they did not need to work out a solution to help those passengers? In other words, was it Jet Blue's problem? If I recall correctly, a police officer went on board the Jet Blue plane to calm down the situation. Could someone explain to me how the officer was able to get on the plane without mobile stairs? It is interesting that the Governor went to Bradley that night to hand out blankets. Why all the attention to 1,500 passengers? Did it have something to do with the Jet Blue incident? I don't know.
Maria Giannuzzi November 11, 2011 at 01:04 PM
It was the prolonged power outage that incited public unrest in our little state. Knowing that many of the elderly, disabled, young children, and other vulnerable populations are freezing and without water, nutritious food, transportation, and working phones makes some of us really upset and angry. And some individuals and families lost a lot of money, I mean a lot of money. One more reason to be upset and angry.
Maria Giannuzzi November 11, 2011 at 02:26 PM
Only a thorough and unbiased investigation will reveal the reasons the Jet Blue passengers were on their plane for more than 7 hours at Bradley. But here is a quote from a 11/7 AP news report by Susan Haigh that may be relevant. "It seemed as if the airport lacked enough people on the ground to get the passengers off the plane, said Elizabeth Halasz of Miami, a former flight attendant who was aboard the plane. While the experience of being trapped aboard the plane nearly eight hours was difficult, Halasz said the saga worsened once passengers left the plane. They had to camp out on cots inside the airport, which had no heat. Elderly passengers, she said, were freezing, and no one had access to their luggage until early the next morning to pull out extra clothing. The only restaurants open were a McDonald's and a Dunkin' Donuts. Both, she said, only accepted credit cards because they had no cash to make change. She said there was also no security, prompting Halasz to drag her cot to a hallway outside a hotel that's attached to the airport, thinking that would be the safest place to stay."
Maria Giannuzzi November 11, 2011 at 02:34 PM
Here is another quote from a 11/3 Bloomberg report by Alan Levin that may also be relevant to the Jet Blue incident: "Airports should face fines if they can’t respond, Kate Hanni, a passenger-rights advocate, said in an interview. “I am really shocked that Bradley was so tone-deaf to this situation,” Hanni said. She founded the Napa, California-based group FlyersRights.org after she was stuck on a plane in 2006. Hanni, who received complaints from passengers, said she telephoned the airport’s operations center Oct. 29 at about 9 p.m. local time. “He said, ‘we’re running our skeleton crew because everyone went home earlier,’” she said. The only way to ensure that airports respond adequately is for federal regulators to require that they plan for such backups and to impose fines when they don’t, she said."
Maria Giannuzzi November 11, 2011 at 03:32 PM
It appears that Bradley was not prepared for the number of diversions from New York and Newark airports on October 29. But it also seems that other airports along the East Coast were also not prepared for large numbers of diverted aircraft. Despite the fact that there was ample warning of heavy, wet snow and icy conditions and the fact that the airlines that day had regularly scheduled flights that might run into trouble. The lack of coordination among airports is troubling. Not only do airports have to do a better job of planning for such diversions during bad weather, the FAA needs to provide additional funds to Bradley because as one of the closest airports to the extremely busy New York and Newark airports, it is the most likely destination for diverted aircraft from these airports so it will have the additional resources (back-up generators, personnel) on hand when needed.

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