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Interview With Frank McCarton

Aired August 14, 2003 - 17:27   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We have with us on the phone now Frank McCarton, deputy commissioner of emergency services.
Frank, we appreciate you being with us. We definitely want to hear what is happening with regard to emergency management right now to just try to keep the calm as these blackouts roll on.

FRANK MCCARTON, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF EMERGENCY SERVICES: Blackout with a dip shortly about an hour ago. It was caused by some kind of failure up in Ontario, Canada, we're being told. We're working very closely with (UNINTELLIGIBLE), which is the local electric company, to bring it back up on line as quickly as possible.

And we have activated our emergency operations center to manage this particular event, and we've asked every city agency, and we're going to ask the state to respond also, so that we'll be able to manage this as long as it occurs.

PHILLIPS: Are you prepared for this, Frank?

MCCARTON: You know, we dealt with 9/11, we are prepared for anything that can affect us. We are New York City. We have the best emergency services that money can buy. We have the best fire department, the police department, the emergency medical services.

And I got to tell you, our people here in the command center right now are working as quickly to get a hold of what is currently going on in all the five boroughs, and actually outside the five boroughs, because it is affecting us.

We do have a fire that has occurred in 14th Street, which is located on the east side of Manhattan, which might have contributed to it, but we're not sure. We've been in touch with Con Edison to make sure that if they need anything from us, and the constant communication between us and the mayor of the city of New York is very important.

And I have to again say that this is not any relation to any kind of terrorist activity. People need to remain calm in the city and throughout the country and let the professionals do their work.

Go home, if the New Yorkers are listening to this, make sure they go home. I know it's going to be an inconvenience, but to go home and relax and go home as quickly as safely as possible.

PHILLIPS: That's if they can figure out how to get home, Frank. A lot of folks not sure how they're going to do that.

MCCARTON: Absolutely.

PHILLIPS: Here comes, you know, emergency services, you're the deputy commissioner. So what is happening right now to try and get these railroads and subways up and running and get those folks who are trapped underground out of there?

MCCARTON: Well, again, life and safety is our number one concern right now. We are working very closely with the fire department and the police department to identify where there are trains that are particularly affected. They're making those particular rescues as we speak.

We have numerous elevators throughout the five boroughs that we're getting reports of people trapped in elevators. We are going through that particular list, emergency services is going through that list as quickly and as efficiency as possible. And we're working as quickly as possible on this.

And, again, we're in constant communication with the Con Edison folks, who has local people here to make sure that we're able to find out when the ETA is back when we'll get the citywide outage back up and running.

PHILLIPS: You mentioned a fire on 14th Street. Earlier on, our Maria Hinojosa said it might have been some type of explosion. What is there on 14th Street that's on fire, Frank?

MCCARTON: That is a Con Ed facility that does house a lot of electrical equipment that feeds lower Manhattan, the lower Manhattan grid.

So we've had a fire there once before. We're not sure exactly if the fire was caused by the outage that occurred up in Ontario or it was secondary to the fact.

PHILLIPS: And real quickly, Frank, talk about this power grid being overloaded. How does something like the Niagara-Mohawk power grid, something so huge, something that approximately has 84,000 miles of transmission and distribution, how does something like that overload?

MCCARTON: You know, I'm going to tell you, I'm an emergency manager, I'm a professional when it comes to emergencies and fire service and emergency medical services, I am not one who is very quick on effectively analyzing the causes of electrical equipment failure. That's going to have to be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of those professionals that are up there dealing with trying to get the power back on. And I think that's a better answer for them to...

PHILLIPS: All right, Frank McCarton, deputy commissioner of emergency services, we appreciate your time. We know you're a busy man.


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