By Jonathan Colford
Ryerson staff won praise from university researchers and organizers when a program for disabled youth went beyond the call of duty during last week’s massive blackout.
The university was shut from Aug. 15 to 17, after the blackout crippled much of Ontario and the northeastern United States, leaving 50 million people without power. But Ryerson staff were still on the job when the lights went out.
Patti McLean is a therapeutic recreation specialist with the Bloorview MacMillan Children’s Centre. She praised Ryerson staff for their help during the blackout.
The Centre runs a program for disbaled youth aged 18 to 21 at Pitman Hall during the summer. It’s an independence program, teaching disabled youth life skills to ease the transition between living at home and alone, as well as from high school to university.
The 12 participants lived at Pitman Hall for three weeks while on the program. Last Thursday, when the blackout it, participants were getting ready for their en-of session party.
“When the power went out, we were in a meeting,” McLean said. “Ryerson staff brought up jugs of ice cold water, security stopped by on their rounds, Ryerson staff kept us up to date on what was going on. There was always someone there to help.”
McLean said Ryerson staff offered mattresses, pillows and blankets for the participants, who spent their final night on the first floor of Pitman Hall.
Ryerson president Claude Lajeunesse said several university staff e-mailed him to commend Ryerson security’s performance during the blackout.
“There was one researcher who could have lost a lot of his samples that were frozen, and they came in and helped and did everything they could,” Lajeunesse said.
Meanwhile the rest of Ryerson dealt with other power-related emergencies.
“We were dealing with elevator entrapments, as well as securing sensitive areas such as researchers’s offices,” said Ian Hamilton, director of campus planning and facilities. “Then we went into a monitoring mode to make sure the campus was safe.”
“Lots of staff worked overtime,” said Hamilton.
With power restored on a fragile grid, everyone is being urged to conserve energy.
THe provincial government urged businesses to avoid using more than 50 per cent of their normal power consumption in order to avoid overloading the power grid and causing another blackout.
Ryerson is no exception. Through Friday and Saturday, all non-essential equipment was turned off and unplugged according to Hamilton. Lajeunesse spoke to the Eyeopener with the lights off in his office.
“We’re telling people to conserve energy,” Lajeunesse said. “As you can see, the lights are not on in here. We’re not suffering because of that.”
Beginning on Aug. 19 Ryerson staff are on reduced hours, working from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., according to a notice sent out to the Ryerson community.
“All members f the Ryerson Community are also urged to be vigilant in turning off all non-essential electrical equipment, and to shut off the lights and computers whenever possible. We should all consider it our civic duty to undertake whatever measures we can to assist in this important effort,” the notice said.
:Lajeunesse said that most university employees will be sent home at 2 p.m. except in areas that affect students directly, such as admissions and financial aid.
“We need to do everything we can to minimize the impact, but it would be crazy to pretend that there would be none,” he said.
But Hamilton assures the situation is under control.