CHICAGO—Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn convened a special meeting of the “Special Task Force on the Condition and Future of the Illinois Energy Infrastructure” to examine disaster preparedness in the event of widespread power outages at high-rise skyscrapers, major factories and schools.
Last week’s fatal fire at the Cook County Administrative building dramatized the need to focus on emergency communications, and internal alarm and locking systems, and the impact a power failure may have on building evacuations.
The Task Force - formed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to study ways to avoid the kind of power outages suffered across the Northeast last August - heard from large–scale energy users including those representing Chicago’s high-rise buildings, businesses, industrial users, school boards, municipal agencies and others.
Among the issues the Task Force focused on Thursday were emergency communications between big users and utilities, and back-up power options to avert economic shutdown or injuries in the event of a widespread blackout. Each organization was asked about its own disaster preparedness plan.
“The economic engine of our state depends on industry and commerce getting the power they need when they need it, and the Task Force is eager to hear from these voices,” Quinn said, noting the Task Force heard from energy producers on September 3 and regional transmission organizations on September 29.
Speakers included Jerry Roper (Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce), Mike Munson (Building Managers and Owners Association or “BOMA”), Jim Dauphinais (Illinois Industrial Energy Consumers), Ted Bronson (Midwest Combined Heat and Power Initiative), Ronald Earl (Illinois Municipal Electric Agency), John Mannix (Illinois Association of School Boards) and other leaders.
The Task Force - comprised of key state agency heads - is expected to make comprehensive recommendations for reform by early 2004.
“In addition to hearing from large-scale users, we need to listen to ratepayers, small business owners, environmentalists and anyone who is concerned about developing long-range solutions to the new energy crisis,” Quinn said. He added a diverse “working group” has been formed and a website (www.blackoutsolutions.org
) has been set up to enable people to offer ideas on how to avoid power outages.
The August 14, 2003 power outage in the Northeast affected 50 million people, caused an estimated $7 billion in damages and crippled businesses.