up SearchFeedback[help] CPMCnet

P & S  N E W S

Columbia-Presbyterian Hit Hard By Blackout

The July 1999 New York City blackout in Washington Heights affected Columbia-Presbyterian even more than the surrounding community. Con Edison lost its entire Washington Heights/Inwood grid around 10:20 p.m. July 6. The neighborhood was without electricity for about 19 hours, but full electrical service was not restored to medical center facilities until late afternoon on July 9.

The Allen Pavilion, New York Presbyterian's community hospital in northern Manhattan, was the first facility to lose power Tuesday morning. Con Ed then asked Columbia-Presbyterian to use generators to help lessen demand for Con Ed Power. Elective surgeries in the hospital were canceled. That night, Con Ed lost its Washington Heights/Inwood grid, leaving Columbia-Presbyterian with emergency generator power for critical equipment only.

Most administrative offices were forced to shut down for two days. When staff members returned on July 9, Columbia-Presbyterian was in the process of having full Con Ed power restored.

Hardest hit by the power failure was the research program of P&S and other University units. Several labs must keep tissue and cell samples refrigerated. When the blackout shut these units down, lab workers scrambled to keep their materials cool with dry ice. "Our center does as much, if not more, research than any major research facility in the world," says Dr. Herbert Pardes, vice president for Columbia Health Sciences and medical school dean. "We know our research was hurt by the blackout, but we are still assessing the full extent of the damage."

Emergency generators have been secured to augment existing emergency generators for University buildings and any University research laboratories located in hospital buildings. These generators will ensure adequate power for critical temperature-sensitive equipment, air conditioning in animal care facilities, and fire alarm and other life safety systems during peak electrical usage. The University is evaluating the need for additional emergency power or other measures to provide adequate backup for future problems.

Return to Table of Contents