Utility Disruptions

A blackout in Brooklyn and Manhattan

Utility disruptions —including power, gas, water, and phone service — are a nuisance but can also be life threatening. While prolonged utility disruptions do not occur often, it is always a good idea to be prepared.

Special Considerations

Ask your utility company whether your medical equipment qualifies you to be listed as a life-sustaining equipment customer (LSE). For those who rely on electric-powered medical equipment at home (e.g., respirators, dialysis machines, apnea monitors), please register with your utility provider so you can be contacted in the event of an emergency.

While registering with your utility provider is an important preparedness step, people who use electric-powered medical equipment should have an emergency plan. Consider the following:

  • An alternate source of electric power, such as a battery back-up system.
  • If using a generator be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, local building codes, and ensure that it's in a well-ventilated area.
  • Include a variety of telephone options (landline, cordless, cellular) if possible.
  • Before the power goes out, make sure to charge all medical and communications devices.
  • If you rely on oxygen, talk to your vendor about emergency replacements. In the event that you do not have access to oxygen, call 911 for immediate assistance.
  • Depending on your provider, other programs may be available if you need extra time to pay your utility bill due to medical conditions.

If utilities are included in your rent, you are still eligible to register for this program directly with the utility company.

Register with Your Utility Provider

  • If you are a Con Edison customer (serving all of NYC except the Rockaways), you may register by calling 1-800-752-6633 (TTY: 1-800-642-2308). For more information, visit Con Edison's special services website.
  • If you are a PSEG Long Island customer (serving the Rockaways), you may register by calling 1-800-490-0025 (TTY: 1-631-755-6660). For more information, visit PSEG's Critical Care program online.
  • If you are a National Grid NYC customer (serving Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island), call 718-643-4050 (or dial 711 for New York State Relay Service). Customers can also visit National Grid online.
  • If you are a National Grid Long Island customer (serving the Rockaways), call 1-800-930-5003. Customers can also visit National Grid online.

More Resources

  • Be Prepared for Power Outages palm card (PDF): English, Spanish
  • Be Prepared for Power Outages poster (PDF): English, Spanish
  • What to Do Before a Power Outage or Utility Disruption

    Help Others

    • Check in on your neighbors. If power will be out for an extended amount of time, offer to help individuals relocate to a location that has power. Offer to help pick up groceries or deliver supplies. Only do so when authorities say it is safe to travel.

    Conserve Power

    During periods of intense electrical usage, such as on hot, humid days, it is important to conserve as much energy as possible to avoid power disruptions.

    • Plan ahead to prepare your home and workplace for a potential loss of power.
    • Set your air conditioner thermostat no lower than 78 degrees.
    • Only use an air conditioner when you are home. If you want to cool your room down before you arrive home, set a timer to have it switch on no more than one-half hour before you arrive.
    • Turn off all nonessential appliances.
    • Turn off lights in unoccupied rooms.
    • Only use appliances that have heavy electrical loads (dishwashers, washers, dryers) early in the morning or very late at night. While diminishing your power usage may seem like an inconvenience, your cooperation will help utilities continue to provide uninterrupted electrical service.
    • If you have a cordless phone, keep in mind you may lose service during a power outage. It is a good idea to have a phone that does not rely on electricity.

    Conserve Water

    • Take shorter showers or fill the tub only halfway and save water.
    • Don't run the tap while shaving, washing your hands or brushing your teeth.
    • Fix leaks. Leaky faucets alone can waste 15 to 20 gallons each day.
    • Run the dishwasher and washing machine only when full, or use short cycles if available.
    • Don't use the toilet as a wastebasket. Each unnecessary flush can waste two to five gallons.
    • Install water-saving fixtures including showerheads and faucet aerators.
    • Sweep driveways and sidewalks clean rather than washing them down with a hose.
    • Visit the NYC Department of Environmental Protection online for additional tips and resources.

    Store Food for Emergencies

    • In some emergencies, like winter storms and heat waves, you may have to stay at home. An emergency supply kit should have enough supplies for up to seven days.
    • Buy foods that can be eaten with little or no cooking.
    • Keep food in the driest and coolest spot in your home.
    • Close food boxes and cans tightly after use.
    • Wrap bread, cookies, or crackers in plastic bags or keep them in tightly closed containers.
    • Use plastic containers when storing food and buy emergency food in cans.
    • Keep clean plastic containers on hand to store one gallon of water for each person per day.
    • Make extra ice.
    • Check your supplies twice a year, such as at daylight saving times.
    • Keep emergency meal preparation supplies on hand, including:
      • Disposable plates, forks, spoons and knives
      • Disposable hot and cold cups
      • Paper napkins or towels
      • Manual can opener
      • Trash bags
      • Heavy-duty aluminum foil
      • Other utensils, e.g. cutting knives
      • Plastic sandwich or freezer bags for food storage
      • Cooler and freezer packs

    What to Do During a Power Outage or Utility Disruption

    • Check to see if a fuse is blown or a circuit breaker has been tripped.
    • Call your power provider immediately to report the outage.
      • Con Edison 24-hour hotline: 1-800-75-CONED (752-6633) (TTY: 800-642-2308). You can also report an outage online on Con Edison's website.
      • National Grid 24-hour hotline: 718-643-4050 (TTY: 718-237-2857)
      • PSEG Long Island 24-hour hotline: 1-800-490-0025 (TTY: 631-755-6660)
    • If power will be out for an extended amount of time, consider going to a friend or relative's home that has power. However, *only* do so when authorities say it is safe to travel (e.g., in the case of a storm).
    • Check on people with disabilities and access and functional needs.
    • Disconnect or turn off all appliances that will go on automatically when service is restored. If several appliances start up at once, they may overload electrical circuits.
    • If your electrical power is cut off, food in your refrigerator and freezer will spoil. Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
      • Use the perishable food in the refrigerator and freezer first.
    • Stay indoors if possible. If you must go outside, stay away from downed and dangling power lines.
    • Keep your cell phone charged.
      • Turn off Wi-Fi or Bluetooth if you’re not using them.
      • Text. Don’t call.
      • Turn off “push” notifications.
      • Revoke background app access.
      • Conserve your power. Do not use your cell phone unless it’s for emergency information. Games can wait.
    • If you lose landline phone service:
      • Use your cell phone, or borrow one from a friend or neighbor if possible and call your provider to report an outage. If Internet service is available, you may contact your service provider online.
      • Fire alarm boxes will continue to work.

    Hot Weather Outage Tips

    • Drink fluids — particularly water — even if you do not feel thirsty.
    • Stay in a cool place as much as possible. If you do not have an air conditioner, consider cooling off at a pool, or in an air-conditioned store, mall, movie theater, or cooling center.

    Learn more about how to keep healthy and safe during extreme heat.

    Cold Weather Outage Tips

    • If you lose power and/or heat in the winter, insulate your home as much as possible. Hang blankets over windows and doorways and find a well-insulated room for living while power is out.
    • Dress warmly. Wear hats, scarves, gloves and layered clothing.
    • If you have a working fireplace, use it for heat and light, but be sure to keep the damper open for ventilation.
    • Use flashlights or battery-powered lanterns for light. Do not use candles.
    • Never heat your home with a gas stove or oven.
    • Do not use any gas-powered appliance, such as a generator, indoors.
    • Use only portable heating equipment that is approved for indoor use. Space heaters are temporary heating devices and should only be used for a limited time each day.
    • Open your faucets to a steady drip so pipes do not freeze.

    Learn more about how to keep healthy and safe during extreme cold and winter weather.

    What to Do If There's a Water Supply Disruption

    If you see water coming up from the ground or roadway, or suspect a water main break, call 311 (212-639-9675 or Video Relay Service, or TTY: 212-504-4115) or contact 311 online. Be prepared to provide:

    • A description of the condition.
    • What is being affected (street, cellar, basement, subways, etc.).
    • The exact location of the problem.
    • Your name, address and telephone number.

    You may also contact DEP via 311 if you lose water service, experience low water pressure or your home is flooded due to a water main break.

    If water is causing a dangerous condition, such as street or sidewalk collapse or severe indoor or outdoor flooding, call 911.

    If your service line, pipes or water meters freeze:

    • Let faucets drip during extremely cold weather to prevent pipes from bursting.
    • Open a faucet near the frozen point to release vapor from melting ice.
    • *Never* thaw a frozen pipe or meter with an open flame; this could lead to fire or cause a steam explosion.
    • If your meter is damaged or your pipes burst, call 311.

    What to Do If You Smell Gas

    • Open windows.
    • Leave your home.
    • Get to fresh air immediately.
    • Call 911.
    • Call the New York City Poison Control Center: 212-POISONS (212-764-7667).

    What to Do After a Power Outage or Utility Disruption

    • Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide can build up to a dangerous level if a fuel-burning appliance isn't operating properly, or is not safely venting fuel combustion by-products.
      • Dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can be produced from improperly vented furnaces, plugged or cracked chimneys, water heaters, space heaters, fireplaces, stoves, and tail pipes.
    • Replenish any emergency supplies you may have used during the outage.
    • Turn off or disconnect appliances, equipment, or electronics.
    • Check on your neighbors.

    What the City Does

    The City works with relevant agencies and utility companies to prepare for and respond to widespread and non-routine disruptions to electricity, gas and steam, water supply, and phone service. For example, the City and utility companies monitor the City’s electrical system and may ask the public to conserve energy to prevent widespread outages. During an emergency, the City will work with relevant agencies ― such as NYPD, FDNY, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, and utility companies that serve New York City ― to identify critical infrastructure and facilities as well as at-risk populations.

    During periods of extreme heat, the FDNY may distribute hydrant spray caps to conserve water. Opening hydrants without a cap results in a drop in local water pressure and threatens firefighting capabilities.

    The City uses several forms of media to alert the public in an emergency (such as utility outages and disruptions), including Notify NYC, the City of New York’s official emergency communications program.

    More Resources