By Jeannette M. Mills, VP, Customer Operations & Chief Customer Officer
To restore electrical service to customers experiencing power outages caused by Hurricane Sandy, BGE is executing on a detailed and tested restoration strategy. The process really begins monthys in advance of storms as we analyze past storms and refine and practice plans. Our most recent company-wide training drill just occurred earlier this month when employees reviewed our storm response procedures to ensure they are up-to-date and in line with industry standards. Of course, we also learn from actual events and last summer’s Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and this summer’s severe derecho storm tested our processes under real-world conditions. After each event we look at what we can improve and incorporate into our next response.
At the core of our plan is our restoration prioritization strategy. In severe storms with widespread damage, we first physically assess damage. You may see BGE and contractor vehicles crisscrossing the area. If you see a truck leave your neighborhood before your power is back on, please rest assured that we are not ignoring your problem. We may need to repair or replace larger power lines or equipment before the line to your home or business is restored. In fact, you may not see damage assessors at first if we have already determined that a problem further up the line affects your power. We also may not be able to fully assess damage or make repairs until weather conditions improve. For instance, we can’t safely do overhead work with bucket trucks when the wind exceeds 25 miles per hour. Our top priority is the safety of you and our employees.
While our goal is to always restore power to the greatest number of customers in the shortest amount of time, public safety issues, such downed wires, and critical customers – such as hospitals, 911 centers and water/sewage treatment centers – receive first priority. At the same time we are also focusing on the “backbone” of our distribution system - including transmission and sub-transmission feeders, substations and distribution feeders. These must be restored before service to downstream customers can be restored.
By focusing on the backbone of our distribution system, we are also working the large jobs that will restore service to the greatest number of customers. Then we address the overhead lines connecting to neighborhoods and transformers that reduce the electricity to a usable voltage for smaller pockets of homes or businesses. Only then can we address the loop lines that serve single homes and businesses.
We understand that while your power is off, you need to know when it will be restored, so you can plan. Unfortunately, with widespread outages and damage, we may not be able to provide individual estimated restoration times like we do with normal storms. Even an estimated time for restoration of the entire system may not be available until damage assessments are complete and the company works through the first phases of the restoration process to repair the electric system backbone, and address public safety issues and critical customers. In order to limit the understandable frustration that results when the company can’t restore power by a given time, estimated times for restoration on a distribution feeder line level or an individual customer basis will only become available to customers as BGE works through the damage to its system and the company has high confidence in their continued accuracy. Even then, these are estimates, subject to change. Plan for multi-day outages.
If you notice that your power remains off after service is restored to your neighborhood, call our electric outage number again at 877.778.2222. We won't stop working until everyone's power is back on.