Emergency generators
The Toronto Star
By John Spears
18 June 2014

The panel gave Toronto Hydro a passing grade for its performance during crippling the ice storm, which hit the city just before Christmas, leaving a million residents in the dark.

But it said there’s room for improvement in many areas, including getting information out to worried customers.

Condos need bigger generators
Highrise apartments and condominiums need far bigger backup power systems in case of extended power outages, says the chair of the panel that studied Toronto Hydro’s response to the ice storm last December.

In some ways the city simply lucked out that no elderly or disabled people died in highrises because of the blackout, David McFadden said in presenting the report.

“Think of how many senior citizens, people who are ill, are up 30 storeys in a building,” he told a news conference. “If they had a health emergency and the elevators aren’t working, who gets there? We need as a society to think about this.”

The report notes practically none of Toronto’s highrise apartments and condominiums have backup generators capable of running essential services such as elevators, heat and phones for an extended period.

Suggest changes to building code
“There’s a potential for catastrophe if we’re not careful,” McFadden said.
That’s why the panel recommends the province amend the Ontario Building Code to require all highrise residential buildings — old and new — install backup generators or power supplies that can enable people trapped for extended periods to cook, have lights, keep warm and have contact with the outside world.

The code currently requires only enough power for safe evacuation in the event of a fire and to “assist in firefighting operations.”

Panel member Sean Conway — who lives in a 51-storey building near Yonge and Bloor — said better emergency power in highrises is essential because “we’re growing up, and we’re growing older.”

This will be expensive
It will be expensive for the older condo towers to install and maintain a large electrical backup generator. However, it will be a while before the Building Code is updated so there will be time to save up for this expense if it will be mandated.

Third-world status
The basic message in this report is that another ice storm could happen again so we should be prepared.

Toronto hasn't got the money to bury its electrical cabling and there will also be resistance, and heavy costs involved, to remove all the trees that are close to the overhead power lines.

So just like third-world cities, we can no longer take reliable electrical supply for granted. Even without fallen power lines, parts of Toronto now are being hit with regular brown-outs due to the strain that all the condo towers are putting on the existing power grid so perhaps all towers need to have their own backup power supply.

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