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Damage And Restoration To Electricity, Phones, TV

The September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center caused significant damage to New York City's electric, gas, broadcasting and telecommunication networks in lower Manhattan. The effects rippled throughout the tri-state area. As Senator Clinton told CBS news on September 17, we must make sure that our electricity and communication networks are restored quickly and efficiently. Because each of these networks relies on the smooth functioning of the other, it is important that electric, gas, water, transportation and communications networks are restored in harmony. Below is a brief recap of the damage done to our infrastructures and the efforts that have been taken to restore services in lower Manhattan.


Electric, gas and steam service was down in a large part of lower Manhattan due to a combination of equipment problems caused by the attacks and the fire at 7 World Trade Center. The fire and collapse of 7 World Trade Center permanently damaged Con Edison's energy infrastructure because two substations and major electric transmission cables were located in the immediate area. An additional substation near South Street Seaport also lost service. The destruction of these three substations left five electricity networks without power in lower Manhattan. In addition, the gas system in a 30-block area was cut off from the energy infrastructure.

The attacks left 12,000 customers without electric power. Due to interruptions in telephone service caused by the attacks, it was difficult for people to call for emergency services and report electricity outages. As a result, Con Edison added the following additional customer service and emergency lines: 212-243-1900 and 800-75-CONED.

Since the crisis, 1,900 Con Edison crews have worked to inspect and test equipment in order to restore service to lower Manhattan. At first, temporary generators were used to restore electricity to streetlights, residences and businesses in the affected areas. By September 17, power had been restored to more than 5,000 customers in lower Manhattan. Con Edison is urging customers not to use air conditioners and other high-energy devices and to limit their electric usage to only essential needs. This is because the attacks damaged the electric distribution infrastructure. This infrastructure manages the distribution of energy to meet the city's normally high demand. Damaged electric cables and transmission lines have been removed from the network and more than 26 miles of new high-voltage cable has been laid. The company is continuing to work with the government in order to restore full-service to lower Manhattan.

Broadcasting & Telecommunications
Radio and television broadcasting throughout the New York tri-state areas was disrupted as a result of the destruction of the 300-foot broadcasting tower leaving many New Yorkers without access to news and information about the attacks. Time Warner Cable www.aoltimewarner.com was able to keep broadcast stations on the air using fiber-optic links after the destruction of the antenna. I was only able to receive broadcasts from CBS for most of the first day of the crisis. Many stations made arrangements to be rebroadcast on other stations but full-service has still not been restored to broadcast audiences.

The attacks destroyed the Verizon offices at the World Trade Center where 488 people worked, most of whom have been accounted for. This knocked out service to ten wireless cells because calls were connected through the World Trade Center offices. In addition, Verizon's switching center directly across from the World Trade Centers suffered structural and water damage and was isolated from the telecommunication network. This caused a loss of 200,000 phone lines and three million data networks and the displacement of 1,737 workers. In addition, landline and wireless telecommunication networks were overloaded due to the doubling of call volume which is normally 115 million calls per day. Calls to directory assistance were also doubled. As of September 19, 14,000 businesses and 13,000 residences were still without phone service.

Following the attacks, Verizon provided free calls at all of Manhattan's 4,000 pay phones and supplied 5,000 cellular phones to emergency workers. In addition, additional payphone and cell phone facilities were deployed in the disaster area to provide additional service to emergency workers. Hundreds of technicians were deployed to the disaster area in order to restore data and phone service to emergency services, the New York Stock Exchange and the financial district. This allowed the New York Stock Exchange to open successfully on September 17. In addition, phone calls to businesses in the affected areas were rerouted to other offices. Verizon is continuing to work to restore full-service to lower Manhattan.

Laura Forlano is a doctoral student studying communication technology policy at Columbia University.

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