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Remembering the Great Blackout of 2003

Created: 08/14/2013 8:24 AM KSTP.com
By: Networx

Photo: Jody McIntyre/Flickr.com.Ten years ago today, one of the largest blackouts in world history struck the Northeast, rippling across Canada and multiple US states. 55 million subscribers were affected by what turned out to be a bug in the software system controlling the grid, which caused a ripple effect when foliage disrupted electrical lines.

While some people got online quickly, others waited two days to get their power back, and lived in the rough while they waited for the utilities to restore service and get their homes up and running. Cleveland electricians were especially hard hit, as they were at the vanguard of the event, since it started in Ohio. Their work was critical for helping consumers with emergency power needs as well as electrical systems that needed to be checked after the outage to confirm they were in working order.

After 2003, a number of states took on updates to the electrical grid to get their systems in working order and reduce the risk of future incidents. But are you ready for a blackout in your own home?

+If you have medical devices or other equipment that needs a stable source of power, you need good battery backup that's fully charged and regularly checked at all times, or a generator to fill the gap in power needs. You might even consider going solar to make sure that when the grid goes down, you won't.

+Keep flashlights and batteries handy. While candles and lanterns carry a certain romance, they come with a risk of fire. In a blackout, emergency services have a lot on their plates: don't add one more thing to their list!

+Make sure you have a supply of food that's easy to prepare without power, and stock up on water (including water to flush the toilet) too.

+Be aware that during blackouts and other major emergencies, phone circuits can get busy. You may have trouble placing and receiving calls. Think ahead: have a planned meeting place to use in the event an emergency strikes while your family isn't at home, so everyone knows where to go.

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