Over the past two weeks there has been much written about the recent power outage and its impact upon the elderly residents of Mills Park Tower. I want to set the record straight on this issue.

A recent letter to the editor stated that the building does not have an emergency backup generator. In fact, the building is equipped with an emergency generator that is designed to operate back-up lighting, the domestic water pump, emergency systems, and one elevator in the event of a power outage. The generator operated as designed during the recent storm and the building had emergency lighting and water pressure and the fire-safety systems were in operation at all times during the outage.

What appears to have happened, however, is that a power surge or a lightning strike during the storm shorted out the switch to the elevator. Consequently, the elevator was out of service from late Thursday until early Friday when an electrician was able to rewire the circuit. The elevator then was in service, powered by the back-up generator, from early Friday until late Friday afternoon when full electric power was restored to the building. I would also note that the generator is tested on a regular basis.

Another recent letter writer suggested that the Housing Authority was negligent in not having an emergency plan for the building and in not evacuating the residents. I would note that there is an emergency plan in place for the building and Housing Authority staff followed it. Our staff determined that the power outage was likely to be of a temporary nature and that there was no need to implement a full-scale evacuation of the residents at that time. Staff also determined that it was best for the residents to remain in their units until power was restored. Our staff assessed the needs of each resident and, in conjunction with the resident floor captains, personally checked upon each individual to determine that their health was not in jeopardy. As a result, several residents were temporarily relocated from the building. Housing Authority staff members also remained in the building at all times during the outage, made sure that the residents had food and water, and worked with the Oak Park Fire Department to ensure the safety of the residents.

The recent storm was a difficult experience for many residents of the village, including the residents of Mills Park Tower. We all hope that we do not see another similar storm in the near future, but I can assure the public and the residents of Mills Park Tower that the staff of the Housing Authority will do all in its power to ensure the safety of our residents.

I would also like to thank the Oak Park Fire Department for their great assistance during the outage. It is comforting to us at the Housing Authority and also to our residents to know that the fire department is there to assist us.

Edward Solan
Executive director, Oak Park Housing Authority

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