A year ago, I didn’t have electricity for an entire week. Well technically 5 days, but it may as well have been an entire week. Maybe that doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, but it was a big deal to me. I live in the sticks, and my indoor plumbing (coming from a well) completely relies on electricity. No electricity = No running water, no washing dishes or clothes, no flushing toilets, no drinking water, etc etc etc…. Maybe it wouldn’t have been as bad if we didn’t have 2 young children and pets, but we do.
The local media had some good articles about Hurricane Irene this week.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission recently released a report that contained some key findings I found of interest.
1. It was soon apparent that there were major problems with the ability of the EDCs’ customer call centers to handle the high volume of calls on August 27 and 28, 2011.
2. While over 93% of customers out of service at the peak of the outages were restored within 72 hours, the remaining customers were not fully restored for 4 or more days. As compared to similar storms from the EDCs’ recent histories (see page 27, below), full restoration for Irene appeared to take longer. Even if a day or two is removed from the restoration time, given that the tropical storm force winds lasted through much of the full day on August 28, 2011, the full restoration for Irene appeared to be extended.
3. All EDCs realized the potential of utilizing alternative communication methods such as text messaging, email, Twitter and Facebook to disseminate information and restoration estimates.
This one I have somewhat of a problem with. How can Facebook, Twitter, Email, or Text Messaging be considered a primary form of communication when THERE IS NO ELECTRICITY? The only way I was able to check any of those things was when I was at school, work or charging my cell phone from my car. There needs to be another way. I could not even try to buy a newspaper in the first few days because most local businesses were closed due to….YOU GUESSED IT….no electricity. UGI’s answer was to have a public meeting nearly a week after the fact of the emergency. Way to be timely, UGI. I took this issue to their Facebook Wall.
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I’d like to think that they understood what I was talking about, but I still sensed some thickness on their parts.
Anyway. Here are the PUC’s recommendations:
Recommendation 1: EDCs need to improve their ability to handle high volume call periods during major outage events as well as implementing a procedure to prevent inaccurate or misleading restoration messaging during expected long-term outage events.
Recommendation 2: EDCs need to strengthen their relationships with local and county emergency management and elected officials.
Recommendation 3: The Commission and the industry should partner to study whether Pennsylvania is experiencing increased extreme/severe weather events. Particularly, more information is required on the recent long-term outages experienced by the EDCs: (1) Were the outages caused by the damage of the severe storms in more remote and hard-to-reach locations of circuits? or (2) Are these the same troublesome circuits that have experienced multiple long-term outages?
Recommendation 4: When performing major storm reviews, TUS should examine EDC crew movements not only for the external crews received, but also any internal crews moved outside of the affected EDCs service territories and whether it has a detrimental effect on restoration.
These are all common sense things. I am particularly concerned about Recommendation #4, I seem to remember that several local crews were sent out of the area to help others further south with Irene. I’m all for helping other areas, believe me, I am….however, don’t you think we could have used them, oh I don’t know, say locally? Oh, if only I could have been a fly on the wall in that PUC meeting….
I also think that there should be a local radio channel that you could turn to for information in emergency situations. I had the hand crank/battery operated going during the days with no electricity, and I could not find one channel with information that was remotely helpful to me. TV or newspaper would have been helpful, but I had no access to either of those things.
One thing that did make me feel slightly better from reading the Citizen’s Voice article was the fact that the Back Mountain will be banding together in the event of another emergency.
“In the aftermath of Irene, Back Mountain Community Partnership members from Harveys Lake and Dallas, Jackson, Kingston, Lake and Lehman townships got together to form a regional emergency management agency, headquartered in the former Back Mountain Medical Center on Route 118 in Lehman Township. The goal is to provide a better response in the event of another tropical storm of Irene’s caliber.”
Lucky for us, we won’t be living through another Irene. Her name was retired from the list of Atlantic Basin storm names back in April. (Source: NOAA) She won’t be missed.
All that being said…..the generator arrives this week.