Utility Disruptions

A blackout in Brooklyn and Manhattan

New York City residents rely on utilities for many daily activities, from showers to powering computer systems, and even operating life supporting systems. While utility disruptions can be dangerous, their effects can be averted or diminished when proper precautions are taken.

Power Outages

Prolonged power outages are not only a nuisance — they are also potentially life-threatening and can cause major economic losses. Power outages occur most often during the summer months, when residents run air conditioners and power usage is at its peak.

While prolonged power disruptions occur infrequently, it's always a good idea to be prepared. In addition to the items you keep in your emergency supply kit, consider storing a battery-operated lantern and freezer packs to help keep food cold during a power outage. See Food Supply Preparation for more information about preparing your food supply for an emergency.

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 variety of telephone options (land-line, 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.

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Power Conservation Tips

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

  • Set your air conditioner thermostat no lower than 78 degrees — a 75-degree setting uses 18 percent more electricity and a 72-degree setting uses 39 percent more electricity. This setting allows for sufficient cooling while still conserving electric power.
  • 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 to ensure that utilities can continue to provide uninterrupted electrical service. If there is a Power Outage:
  • First, 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)
  • 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.
  • In order to prevent food spoilage, keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Move milk, cheese, meats, and other perishables into the freezer compartment. If the freezer is only partially full, keep all items close together and stacked on top of each other.
  • Stay indoors if possible. If you must go outside, stay away from downed and dangling power lines.
  • If power will be out for an extended amount of time, consider going to a shelter, hotel or friend or relative's home that has power. However, ONLY do so when authorities say it is safe to travel (i.e., in the case of a storm).
    • Check on people with disabilities and access and functional needs.

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.
  • Never heat your home with a gas stove or oven.
  • Do not use any gas-powered appliance, such as a generator, indoors.
  • Open your faucets to a steady drip so pipes do not freeze.

Hot Weather Outage Tips

  • Keep windows in your residence OPEN for proper ventilation.
  • Drink plenty of water.

Food Supply Preparation

If your electrical power is cut off, food in your refrigerator and freezer will spoil. It is wise to have some canned or packaged foods on hand that require minimal water, preparation and cooking.

If you know power may be out for a few days, plan ahead:

  • Use the perishable food in the refrigerator and freezer first.
  • Make extra ice.
  • Purchase freezer packs or fill clean plastic containers with water and keep them frozen for emergencies.
  • Buy a cooler.
  • Freeze water in plastic containers. Do not fill containers to the top before freezing, because the water will expand as it becomes ice.
  • Know in advance where you can buy dry and block ice. Twenty-five pounds of dry ice should keep a 10-cubic-foot freezer cold for three to four days.

Emergency preparedness guidelines for food retailers

Storing Food for Emergencies

  • 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.
  • Have a special section of the food cupboard set aside for emergency food, so that it is easier to manage, and can be packed quickly if there is a need to evacuate.
  • Rotate food every six months.
  • 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
    • Sterno heater, hibachi or camp stove with five-day fuel supply
    • Matches in waterproof container
    • Heavy-duty aluminum foil
    • Other utensils, i.e. cutting knives
    • Plastic sandwich or freezer bags for food storage

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