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August 13, 1999
Which blackout(s) did you experience?
In your own words, tell the story of your experience in the blackout(s). Try to recall specific events and the people, places, and things involved; also include more general reactions, images adn last impressions?
Things proceded normally and slower although the blackout caused everyone to change routine - much like a blizzard sceanrio - except the weather was so nice.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
All problems are predictable. Problems are avoided only if those predictions are conducted. Failure - even the many attributed to the weather - are traceable to man. We can statistically predict everything - as long as we can obtain the knowledge and technology to do so AND as long as the people who come from where the work gets done are permitted
to solve these problems. Failure to execute the second half is the most common reason for most failures.
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Conditions creates by human failure to setup equipment properly and to establish backup procedures permitted a cascade failure. This is further complicated by the 'so many' that would look to 'share the blame'. When you have a failure with many apparent contributing factors, then continue up the chain until you find the common point - the common reason for all the symptoms.
Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
Both were significant
Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
Both were significant because they are necessary to test andexpose the weaknesses in our systems and the people responsible for those failures.
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
It caused me to 1) learn how systems work mostly because thefailure caused the systems to be described in publications and 2) to learn why all failures occur. Since then and because of other following events, I have learned much about why failures happen. They are not accidents.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
At the time, it was interesting and entertaining. However I have since learned how some news will hype events rather than report them in perspective. Walter Cronkite's full CBS News broadcast of 3 Mile Island, when rebroadcast some decade + later, demonstrated to me how superior a newsman he was and how responsible news people put such stories in perspective.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
They are all necessary to maintain and improve the reliability of our systems mostly because some people forget that the primary objective of any company or operation is the product. Failure to remember that biblical rule strongly contribute to such catestrophic failures.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
None. It was primarily a Power Pool problem.
If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
Both were similar in the reason they happened. Much of the press hyped the 1977 blackout so that a European would have thought every street in NYC was burning or was looted. The reality was crime and riots were isolated to certain regions and probably were inevitable because of other social problems brewing in the country - as described in a Federal Government report to Pres Johnson describing two separate societies in the same country.
Did the blackout(s) have any larger meaning in your mind?
Yes (please explain)
If yes, please explain:
It started a lifetime study of failures that finallydiscovered that they are not accidents. All failures are statisically predictable and often occur because of human failures. Much of what I learned revolves around the concepts of Attitude & Knowledge (A&K) and has since concentrated great appreciation of W E Demings teachings. Why, for example, did every 1970 Ford Maverick require a full valve job after 20,000 miles? Because Henry Ford's attitude was cost controls - forgetting the primary purpose of any company or organization is the product (not the profits). The valve job was require because the valve guides required on all 200 cu in engines and found standard on this engine in all previous years was removed by cost controller on the 1970 engine. Therefore a $1400 (1999 dollars) valve job on every car (and I did the labor).
Did the blackout(s) cause any profound crisis?
How did the blackout(s) affect your daily reliance on electricity?
Other (please specify)
If other, please specify:
Thirty years ago, while typing this, I would haverepeatedly backedup this text. Today we have electricity so reliable that most people don't backup. The reliability increase in both local distribution and regional transmission is quite phenomenal. We take for granted something that was not as consistent in the 1960s. Back then, a power line might be taken down for service. Today, that is just not acceptable. I should note that I do not, never have worked for, and have no business contacts with any power company or system. I simply do what most people forget to do - remember how things were 30 years ago. Remember what was Normal Operating Procedure then and constantly compare it to what is taken for granted by most today.
This is how the story goes: In November of 1965 the lights went out in New York and crime rates temporarily dropped; there were widespread reports of extraordinary cooperation and trust between strangers caught together in the power failure. In July of 1977, little more than a decade later, the lights went out again in New York. This time, a devastating wave of looting and arson broke out. Does this story ring true to you? Explain why or why not:
As I noted previously - the looting and rioting were isolated events hyped by the less responsible news people such as Time Magazine (the same people who refused to publish their own reporters stories from VietNam and who routinely had NY and Washington reporters rewrite theVietNam stories). Things have not changed much today. Time Magazine puts a Blair Witch Hunt story on their front cover. Previously they put JFK, Jr (a man who accomplished little) on that cover (same for Newsweek). I look to more responsible news people such as NY Time and The Economist to put these stories in proper perspective (usually onback pages). Most of the rioting and looting was in the papers. It never occurred on most every street I walked. The word is perspective. Some news people are so irresponsible that they report a big snow storm as the "Strom of the Century". What bull.
Story #11, The Blackout History Project, 13 August 1999, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/11/>.
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