2009 Blackout Followup Meeting

Various members of Toronto's west-end communities have asked government officials and Toronto Hydro representatives for a public information meeting as a followup to the January 15-16 2009 blackout. A public meeting has been scheduled for Thursday January 22 at 7:00pm. Here are the details:

When: Thursday January 22 at 7:00pm
Where: Parkdale Public Library, 1303 Queen St. West (map)
More info: The CELOS website has a Power Blackout information page

See below for an email sent by Jutta Mason regarding the Blackout followup meeting and other related information.

Hi again -- M.P.P. Cheri Di Novo is having a public information meeting on the blackout at the Parkdale Library this Thursday Jan 22 at 7 pm. She wrote: Councillor Gord Perks and representatives from Toronto Hydro and Hydro One will be there to answer any questions from our community members.

No word back yet from Mr.Ruprecht or Councillor Giambrone, about whether they plan to send representatives to this meeting. Doesn't matter -- hopefully the Hydro guys will be able to explain the complexities of a big-city power grid and a touchy sprinkler system, and that's a good start.

As promised, we've set up a quick-and-dirty "Blackout page" on the CELOS website: http://celos.ca/wiki/wiki.php?n=Blackouts.FrontPage. It has various e-mails, including one from DIGIN chair Donna Cowan, who also urged a public meeting, and several between Donna and Barbara Switzer, the city emergency coordinator, who shows that the city had a remarkable range of remedies in place: http://celos.ca/wiki/wiki.php?n=Blackouts.EmergencyServices.

Of great interest is the inclusion of some information about how to cope with a winter blackout in the short term (wind-up radios, flashlights and candles, battery packs, generators) and how to maybe become less dependent on the grid in the medium term (gas furnace workarounds that can take the place of the usual hardwired electrical fan) and the long-term (masonry ovens, solar panels, home wind turbines, provincial and federal subsidies for off-grid stuff). A bit of that information is on the website already: http://celos.ca/wiki/wiki.php?n=Blackouts.OffGridInfo, and I'm hoping to collect some more before (and on) Thursday. We'll post anything any of you send -- "keep those cards and letters coming," -- and hopefully the meeting will be good for finding more resources, neighbour to neighbour. We'll post everything we learn there, for those of you who can't come.

A few folks on the e-lists must be reporters because the Star called to do a story on the meeting.

Jutta Mason

There is so far one mention of this meeting in the media:
Answers sought on west-end blackout - Toronto Star, Jan 20, 2009


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Blackout meeting: Notes

Councillor Gord Perks posted notes from the meeting on his website today:


Blackout: Adam Giambrone's email

Here is an email from Adam Giambrone, sent via the Dufferin Grove and Bloor-Lansdowne mailing lists. Note that Giambrone is trying to get another meeting together with Tony Ruprecht, possibly next week.

Subject: Update on the January 16th Blackout
Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2009 18:37:03 -0500
From: Councillor Giambrone

Dear Residents,

I wanted to take the opportunity to provide you with a detailed update
about what happened during last Friday's power failure in the west
end, what aspects of Toronto's emergency response went well and where
there is room for improvement.

Before I get to that, it has been brought to my attention that some
residents have asked for a public meeting to discuss what actions
Hydro One will be taking to solve the problems at the Dufferin
Transformer Station so as to reduce the risk of this sort of thing
happening again. I have contacted our MPP Tony Ruprecht to ask that he
call such a meeting for our neighbourhood. Unfortunately I was
informed by his staff that Mr. Ruprecht was unavailable until some
time next week. I will continue to raise this issue with him and
encourage him to organize this meeting. Should he do so, I would like
to attend and bring City staff to speak to you about the City's
Emergency Plan.

In the meantime, the MPP for Parkdale, Cheri DiNovo, has organized a
meeting on Thursday January 22nd at 7:00 pm at the Parkdale Library,
303 Queen Street West. Councillor Perks and representatives from both
Hydro One and Toronto Hydro will also be attending. Any interested
residents from our neighbourhood are welcome to attend to get more

As many of you now know, last week's power outage was caused by a
faulty sprinkler system in Hydro One's Dufferin Transformer Station.
Hydro One is the provincial electricity utility owned by the Province
of Ontario. The water from the sprinklers significantly damaged
equipment, resulting in a loss of power to an area roughly bounded by
Jane St. and Spadina Ave, and by St. Clair and Queen Street.
Approximately 75 per cent of residents had power restored about 18
hours later, and power was restored to the remaining 25 per cent
nearly twenty-four hours after the lights went out.

During this crisis, the City of Toronto immediately implemented our
Emergency Plan. Toronto Hydro crews worked around the clock alongside
their Hydro One counterparts to restore power to the affected area and
City Staff from all other divisions worked to do their part. I
personally was up most of the night mobilizing City and TTC staff to
get emergency resources into place as quickly as possible to help
those in need. Examples of actions taken by the City include: opening
warming centres around the City where people with no where else to go
could stay warm; assigning police to keep traffic moving at
intersections where the traffic lights were out; the TTC mobilized all
available buses into the area for people who rely on transit; a phone
line was set up for seniors and the disabled who needed rides out of
the area; and City public health staff, and others, went door to door
to check on vulnerable residents in houses and apartments to make sure
they were okay. Every effort was made to communicate this information
to effected residents through phones, the internet and local media
outlets. Many residents also took the initiative to check on their
neighbours themselves and help them through this difficult situation.

Now that the emergency has passed, the City is in the process of
analysing what aspects of the Toronto Emergency Plan worked well and
what areas need improvement. By and large, I am incredibly proud of
the hard work and dedication of both city staff and ordinary citizens
who rose to the occasion to help make sure everyone got through the
crisis safely. That being said, there is always room for improvement
and one area in particular that many residents have brought to my
attention is that they had trouble getting information about what
resources were in place to help them. The City will be taking a close
look at how communication can be improved in future emergencies.

Some residents have also asked if there are any resources in place to
help them if their homes were damaged during the blackout, such as
from a burst pipe. I have contacted Hydro One on their behalf and have
been informed that their position is that residents should contact
their insurance providers for assistance. Should their position
change, or should any other programs be created to help residents
experiencing this sort of issue, I will get that information out to
the community.

An emergency like this one also reminds each of us that it's important
for all of us to plan ahead and be prepared. An important action that
you and your family can take is to put together an emergency kit. Your
kit should include such items as enough water and non-perishable food
to last each member of your household up to 72 hours, a flashlight, a
battery-powered radio, an extra one-week supply of medication, candles
with matches, and a first-aid kit. For more detailed information on
what you can do to be prepared, please visit

Yours truly,
Adam Giambrone
Toronto City Councillor
Ward 18 Davenport