For 10 days, Lynn Ashdown was trapped in her 11th floor apartment, alone and scared. His Fisher Heights condominium building lost power in the May 21 storm, and without a backup generator, the elevators stopped.
“I was a prisoner here for 10 days, with no way out. There are serious consequences to this. My medical issues got worse, my cognitive health got worse, my mental health got worse,” Ashdown said.
Ashdown uses a wheelchair and deals with a brain injury. She’s better prepared than most for the potential dangers of a power outage, but after 72 hours in the dark, she’s started to panic.
“Definitely the worst-case scenario. What goes through my head is, ‘Okay, how do I take care of my medical needs?’ “, she said.
Luckily, Ashdown is trained as a doctor and she was able to meet her own medical needs as much as possible. Friends and her doctors also helped her, carrying food to her apartment and bringing portable chargers for her cellphone, her only means of communication with those outside her small apartment.
“It’s going to take me a long time to get over it, this experience. It really traumatized me. It was worse than the worst case scenario I imagined,” Ashdown said.
Now, in the wake of the storm, she’s advocating that all apartment buildings in the city have backup generators for their elevators.
In Toronto, the city council has recommended that buildings be equipped with a backup generator, but the city is not implementing this suggestion.
In Ottawa, some new buildings have backup power for elevators, but Councilor Keith Egli says there are thousands of people living in buildings without the security measure.
Egli will introduce a motion at the next council meeting asking the city to ensure there are backup generators in all apartments, but city staff say the legislation could prove difficult.
“If a building is built in the 1960s, it is subject to a set of rules; if it’s built in the 2000s, it has a different set of rules. In all likelihood, we’re going to find that we have to go to the province to get some sort of harmonized rules,” said Stephen Willis, the City’s general manager of planning, real estate and development. Ottawa.
At nearby Merivale Gardens, other people with disabilities faced similar challenges but managed to escape prolonged hardship thanks to working generators.
“The generator lost power on Tuesday, it ran out of gas and we lost power and were stuck in the dark on the 11th floor for a whole day, but after that they took it turned on,” said Monica Belanger, who lives on the 11th floor of her building with her husband Stephen, who also uses a wheelchair.
“I had to cancel his home care for a week and it was very difficult,” she added.
Ashdown says she hopes the city’s legislation can better protect those like her and the many others who have been stranded afterward.
“Once the dust settles, people forget, people forget very quickly, so now is the time to act,” Ashdown said.