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The explosion in Floral Park that obliterated a house and took the life of a mother of three children raises questions about the management at Con Edison and its preparedness to respond quickly to a potential disaster.
A loving husband has lost his wife. Three children will grow up without a mother. It is an incredible tragedy and it may well be that this could have and should have been averted.
A neighbor noticed the strong odor of gas and called Con Ed at 3:34 p.m. on the day of the explosion. At 4 p.m., a Con Ed worker was on the scene testing for gas leaks. The first manhole he tested had 20 percent gas and at 4:15 p.m. he reportedly called for backup. The second manhole tested for 80 percent gas. At 4:50 p.m., the house exploded.
Con Ed had 50 minutes to evacuate the block, but nothing was done. When the worker found the manhole filled with gas, it should have been clear this was a dangerous situation. But apparently there is no protocol at Con Ed dictating when and how a neighborhood should be evacuated.
If you smelled gas inside your house, wouldn’t you get your family out until Con Ed gave the all clear? We cannot imagine the Con Ed worker did not recognize how dangerous it is when a manhole has filled with gas. That is why he called for backup. But no one at Con Ed treated this like the life−threatening emergency it was.
Councilman Eric Gioia has called on Con Ed to fire CEO Kevin Burke. This was the third fatal explosion in three years. Had it happened an hour later, the father and three children might have also been killed.
“How many people have to lose their life before Con Edison changes their procedures?” he asked.
The demand for Burke’s firing is premature. There must be an independent investigation. In addition, Con Ed must explain why it apparently learned nothing from earlier tragedies.
Most important, there needs to be clear guidelines dictating when an evacuation is necessary and how that evacuation should be accomplished. Certainly the FDNY and police should be immediately notified and involved.
Not every gas leak ends in disaster, but every leak large enough to register 80 percent should be seen as a potential disaster.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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