When we plug our phones into the wall we expect them to start charging, and when we flip a light switch we expect the lights to go on. Most of the time, these systems work just fine, but this week, travelers at Washington’s Reagan National Airport sat for 90 minutes with no power, while others sat on planes waiting for power to be restored to utilize the jetbridges.
The power outage caused some diverted flights and delays, and many computer systems were down though backup generators provided crucial service. Baggage carousels were left at a stand still as airport crew members handed out bags and passengers searched for luggage using phones as flashlights. The outage was caused by an issue with the service provider, who is now investigating the exact cause believed to be related to equipment failure. Luckily, some emergency backup lighting systems were activated, so travelers were not left in the pitch black.
When Emergency Systems Fail
During the 2017 holiday season, an 11-hour power outage hit Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport – a disruption that caused 1,180 flight cancellations during the busiest travel time of the year. A fire damaged both the electrical systems and back-up equipment, causing a blackout.
The incidents demonstrate the cascading effect of an infrastructure failure. Our system is only as strong as the weakest link.
Our Energy Infrastructure
Whether you’re searching for luggage in the dark or in need of an outlet to charge your phone, we all rely on electricity and we can all agree that power outages and interruptions are major inconveniences to our daily lives. A majority of our electric transmission and distribution lines were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s with a 50-year life expectancy, meaning we are currently relying on systems that are functioning 10 to 20 years past their expected life. It’s easy to see why our energy systems are receiving a “D+” grade. Without the proper investment, we will continue to experience longer and more frequent outages at the airport and at home, which bring inconvenience and ripple through the economy.