Blackout should teach U.S. key lesson

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 15, 2003

Tribune editorial staff

On Thursday, the "city that never sleeps" went to bed a little early, and with noticeably less glitz and glamour than usual. Perhaps America learned a valuable lesson.

A massive blackout- the worst ever - rolled across New York state, the northern United States and southern Canada. In its wake, the blackout left approximately 50 million people without power.

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The first question that popped into the minds of many Americans was: Is the blackout a terrorist attack?

First reports point to some sort of natural cause for the blackout rather than a deliberate act of terrorism. Before the power had even begun to be restored, fingers were already pointing through the darkness.

Regardless of the cause, in addition to the inconvenience of tens of millions, the blackout is seriously dangerous.

As our society becomes more and more dependent on technology for communication, transportation and even defense, we must work to safeguard that technology from failure.

Whether the failure comes at the hands of man or at the whim of fate, the need to protect our way of life is critical.

Perhaps not worrying about disaster is simply human nature. Entire industries exist because people do not like to plan for bad things to happen.

Unfortunately, the government and its taxpayers are no different.

If no other lesson is learned from all of unexpected darkness, Americans need to realize that as long as we ignore the possibility of disaster, we stand at great risk.

The blackout is just one more piece of evidence that we need to spend more money on government regulatory measures. From air traffic controllers to drug enforcement agents and from energy regulators to workplace safety inspectors, America's regulatory arm is woefully underdeveloped.

Eliminating all chance of a mishap is unlikely, but ignoring preventative work essentially just invites its unwelcome arrival.