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Bush Pleased with Handling of US Power Outage - 2003-08-15

President Bush says Thursday's blackouts have illustrated the need to modernize America's electrical grid. Mr. Bush says he is pleased with the way authorities are handling the situation.

President Bush says it may take awhile to find out why so much of the power grid went down. But once officials do, he says, they will deal with it.

"I view it as a wake-up call," the president said. " I have been concerned that our infrastructure, the delivery system is old and antiquated. And I think, this is an indication of the fact that we need to modernize the electricity grid."

Mr. Bush says the blackouts are a "good opportunity" to analyze what is wrong with the U.S. power distribution system and find ways to fix it. He wants more redundancy in the system, so that when power fails again, fewer people will be affected.

About 50 million people in the United States and Canada were without electricity at the height of the outage, which stretched as far west as the Great Lakes states of Michigan and Ohio.

Speaking at a forestry event in California, Mr. Bush praised the calm of those affected by the blackouts.

"The people in New York and in the Northeast and in parts of the Midwest showed the great character of America," he said. " They were [under] very difficult circumstances. The people responded in calm fashion. They worked hard to help their neighbors in need. And they showed the rest of the country and the world the true mettle of the American people."

Mr. Bush says the Defense Department, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services are working with state and local officials to support efforts to continue restoring power and cope with the disruptions.

He says he is pleased with the way things have been handled so far and doubts that response would have been as good before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Many improvements in emergency preparedness were made following those attacks, including modernizing communications between local, state, and federal officials.