Last year’s Hurricane Irene could have been a lot worse for the East End than it was. Long Island is especially susceptible to damage from high-intensity storms, so it is important to be prepared for anything that might come our way. On July 26 at the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton, Town Supervisors Jim Dougherty of Shelter Island, Anna Throne-Holst of Southampton, and Bill Wilkinson of East Hampton, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., and Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) administrators gathered to present important information on hurricane preparedness.
Steve Tricarico, the District Manager for Eastern Long Island for LIPA, was on hand with a detailed and informative presentation about how LIPA prepares for and restores after storms. It was an appropriate topic, given that potentially severe thunderstorms were headed for our area that evening. “Restoring power after a major outage is a huge undertaking,” Tricarico began. Doing so “quickly and safely after a Nor’easter is our primary responsibility.” He gave a timeline for LIPA’s operations before, during, and after the storm. One week to 96 hours prior, they assess the potential damage, prepare equipment and manpower, and begin communication efforts. They arrange for “foreign crews” to travel from their home states—for Irene, places like Texas and Illinois—to help restore power should it fail.
LIPA also calls their “Critical Care” customers, people who depend on electricity to live, such as those on life support equipment. Calls are also made to “Critical Facilities” such as hospitals, nursing homes, and water pumping stations, even though these places often have backup generators. LIPA distributes messages to the general public through their website (lipower.org), television, and radio.
“Be prepared for extended outages,” he continued. “Electric restoration could take five to seven days and beyond.” After a storm, LIPA works toward this goal by getting transmission towers and substations up and running, and then working into businesses and neighborhoods. Fallen trees are the biggest cause of outages, so sometimes repair work is a complicated and tedious process. Crews work 16-hour days, and “It is an all hands on deck atmosphere” when a storm hits. “The main goal is to restore power safely to the greatest number of customers in the shortest time possible,” he commented.
Tricarico recommended having flashlights, canned food, medicines, and bottled water on hand. If you get a backup generator, always have it installed properly by an electrician—otherwise, he stressed, you are putting yourself into even more danger than if a hurricane hit your home. Questions from attendees at the presentation made it clear that it is good to have a battery-operated radio, in case power outages render television, Internet, and phone services useless.
Tricarico noted the importance of reporting outages to LIPA at 1-800-490-0075. Customers can also text in outages by registering their phone—text REG to myLIPA (695472) or at lipower.org. The website now features a map of the outage progress, which is extremely helpful, and Facebook and Twitter (@LIPAnews) are also good resources to get information during storms.
Another important topic of the hurricane preparedness seminar was to discuss what our East End towns do in the event of a natural disaster. Anna Throne-Holst, Southampton Town Supervisor, talked about their updated procedures, including a pocket-sized hurricane preparedness guide. “We take that very, very seriously,” she said, “that people have the basic information on hand and know where to call.” The town’s website, southamptontownny.gov, will always be a good source of information.
Throne-Holst mentioned the recent accident and traffic tie-up on CR 39 as “probably one of the biggest eye-openers for us.” In working on solutions to events like this, they have implemented a “Code Red” alert system, where people can register their phone number and email address on the town’s website to get notifications about such events. In case of the need for evacuation, “The fire departments will in fact come and go door to door to make sure people have evacuated.”
In the event of emergency, the most important thing is to stay in contact with local authorities and LIPA through websites, phones, and social media. Register your phone number and email, and encourage Critical Care customers to register with LIPA. Above all, be prepared. It could save your life.