Megan Eaves, BGE External Affairs Manager
Ever wonder how BGE prepares, responds and communicates during major storm events? That was the very topic discussed at our annual Emergency Partners Meeting held at our RBC South complex in Woodlawn.
Each year, BGE hosts a meeting with emergency management and public works agencies across our central Maryland service area to strengthen those vital partnerships. This year we hosted more than 50 emergency management professionals, discussing ways to provide better service to their organizations and to our customers during significant events such as storms and electric and gas emergencies. Discussions also centered around meeting and exceeding day to day project needs such as customer notifications, permitting and vehicular impacts.
During the meeting, our emergency partners learned about new technologies we are using to communicate with our customers during extreme weather events. Some of those tools include our free mobile app to report outages and downed wires and text alerts that provide outage restoration updates.
Aside from extreme weather events, we respond to repair our gas and electric equipment when it sustains damage. That was the case recently when a water main break in the city of Laurel forced water into our gas mains and pipes in the area. The incident caused many of our customers to lose gas service and required a multi-day restoration effort. Both BGE and city emergency responders worked day and night to restore service to all customers as quickly and safely as possible. That collaboration was key to a successful outcome.
With each emergency event we face, BGE takes the time to evaluate opportunities to better serve our customers. When we bring our partners into the room, we all get better and the entire region is better prepared for small and largescale disasters. That’s a win-win.
Justin Mulcahy, BGE Communications Manager
Setting utility poles with helicopters, rappelling down ravines to retrieve electric wire and using drones to pull wire across mountainous terrain. Sounds like scenes from an action movie. But this was actually work performed by BGE crews during their mutual assistance mission in Puerto Rico.
It was the first time our employees left the continental United States to assist with power restoration. All told, the seven-week deployment was the longest mutual assistance effort in our company's history.
"We faced some very rough terrain in very remote, rural areas. Each decision was made with the safety of our employees and the residents of the island in the forefront of our minds," stressed Sr. Safety Specialist Rudy Johnson.
The second wave of employees returned home in April and were greeted with a hero's welcome—from family members, members of the Organization of Latinos at Exelon (OLE), fellow employees and BGE leadership—at White Marsh Service Center.
"Most of the customers on the island were without power for more than six months. Your work made a transformational difference in their lives," remarked BGE President and Chief Operating Officer Steve Woerner.
"When we first arrived in Puerto Rico, people celebrated as our trucks rolled through communities. The best moments came when we restored power and you could hear the cheers for what seemed like miles said Johnson. We felt like true heroes."
The working conditions were challenging, but the results were impressive. Our crews restored power to more than 11,000 customers, safely installed 376 poles and over 108 miles of conductor.
The mission personally impacted employees.
"This was a very humbling experience as we restored both power and hope to the island," said Supervisor of Distribution Eric Guy. "I'll always remember the amazing people and the beautiful mountain views. I will never forget this trip."
The lights are now back on for the majority of customers who lost power during the devastating hurricanes last fall.
Job well done!
Watch the video of the homecoming for the second wave
of returning employees!
Calvin G. Butler Jr., BGE CEO
As a 202-year-old company, we know the importance of legacy. We appreciate what it means to have an impact on people's lives through our work and how we go about doing our jobs every day. Fifty years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life was tragically taken. His legacy, however, lives on, and still inspires and challenges us.
At BGE, we honor Dr. King's memory by answering his call for justice and equality. We do so through our commitment to diversity and inclusion, and through our employees' service in the community, volunteering more than 23,000 hours last year. Many of us put in a day of service on MLK Day in January, and will do so again during National Volunteer Week, April 15-21.
Beyond service, our daily operations can be more impactful than delivering energy to central Maryland's homes and businesses. As an example, we chose this date two years ago to partner with Johns Hopkins to launch BLocal, an initiative to improve the city's economic prospects by hiring more local and minority-owned firms and residents. Since its inception, BLocal continues to grow, and the investments of Exelon, BGE and dozens of other leading corporations are paying off. This important initiative has been described by civic and community leaders as a "turning point" that is making a significant economic development difference in Baltimore City and beyond.
While much progress has been made, achieving Dr. King's vision remains a goal. We strive to make his dream a reality as we power a cleaner and brighter future for our customers and communities.
Jarrett Carter, Sr. Communications Specialist
Just when we thought we had seen the last of dangerous winter weather, on the first day of spring, yet another nor’easter is impacting the BGE service area. We want all our customers to know that we are fully mobilized for the storm that is forecasted to continue dropping mixed precipitation on Maryland and the rest of the mid-Atlantic through Wednesday.
Here are just a few reminders about BGE's approach to storm preparation and outage response in our communities.
We also encourage customers to help neighbors with special needs, the elderly or disabled with setting up alternative arrangements for medical equipment in the event of extended outage. Another good tip is clearing any utility equipment, such as natural gas or electric meters, of ice and snow when safely possible. Use a broom or brush to clear the area around the meter - Do not melt ice or snow on meters with a heat source, and do not chip or scrape ice.
Check out our Storm Center for access to the outage map, and tips on what to do before, during and after a storm.
All 3,200 of us working here at BGE take on specialized roles during weather events, and like you, we also personally experience the challenges and inconvenience caused by service interruptions. That is one of the reasons we’re so committed to restoring your power safely and as quickly as possible. We’re also focused every day on investing in strengthening the grid, maintaining equipment and preparing for storms.
BGE asks all customers, including those with smart meters, to report their outage. Outages may be reported online at BGE.com and via BGE's free mobile app available at the Apple Store or Google Play. Customers may also report outages and downed wires by calling 877-778-2222, on BGE.com and through mobile devices. To sign up for email and text notifications, visit BGE.com/alerts.
Rodney Oddoye, BGE Vice President and Chief Customer Officer
As Winter Storm Riley churned through our region Friday and Saturday, bringing with it extremely high sustained winds and gusts over two days, it quickly became apparent this storm was far exceeding forecasts.
This was a much more destructive storm than our multiple meteorological services had predicted. It was soon followed by Winter Storm Quinn and together the two destructive nor'easters knocked out electric service to 462,000 customers in BGE's service area, mainly from downed trees and limbs. A state of emergency was declared in Maryland. Hundreds of thousands of customers are still out in other states.
Utilities from the Mid-Atlantic to New England were in same situation, preparing for one forecast and encountering a storm that was much stronger and longer lasting. At the storm's peak there were more than 2.6 million outages at once on the East Coast. The total number of outages from both storms surpassed 3 million. While we had anticipated high sustained winds that could cause some outages and readied our crews ahead of the storm to repair potential damage, the forecasts did not indicate that we would experience the worst storm in the last six years.
Winter Storm Riley's top recorded windspeed was 72 mph in the Inner Harbor and high winds lasted two full days. To put that in perspective, Superstorm Sandy's gusts here topped out at 63 mph and the June 2012 Derecho's peak gusts were 67 mph and lasted just 90 minutes.
There were three major factors that extended the duration of the restoration after Riley. First, the inaccurate forecast didn't signal a need for utilities to secure assistance from those outside the storm's path. The original forecast called for a storm that utilities could respond to with their own crews. Then, the two-day duration of the storm itself with extremely high winds creating unsafe conditions for line workers, severely hampered our ability to make repairs during the storm. Lastly, Winter Storm Quinn caused more outages and created challenging working conditions.
As Riley struck harder than expected, we immediately began coordinating with utilities to send extra crews. We called on support from within Exelon first, from our ComEd sister utility out of Illinois. Those employees, who are pre-trained on our common procedures and equipment, were able to start work more quickly than outside crews normally can. Then, approximately 1,300 line workers began heading to Maryland from utilities in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Canada.
They joined forces with the more than 3,100 BGE employees and contractors who were already engaged in around-the-clock restoration efforts. We set up three regional staging areas for the extra crews at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore and BWI Airport in Anne Arundel County. In the two days after the wind subsided, this force was able to restore the vast majority of customers.
The work was difficult, with the damage described by veteran employees as some of the worst and most widespread that they have ever seen. Toppled trees, too numerous to count, brought down wires and damaged or snapped poles. Just clearing the trees and debris in order to begin making repairs took considerable amounts of time.
This type of widespread, extensive damage also hampers our ability to quickly provide accurate restoration times as more damage is discovered. Even as initial work is being completed, until all the damage is matched with a larger workforce to make the repairs, estimating repair times can only be done on a limited basis. As more crews arrived and our damage assessments were further along, we were able to provide more information.
Not knowing when power might be restored is frustrating for customers, limiting your ability to plan. Compounding that frustration were the technical challenges of our website's outage map not refreshing in the early part of the storm. We are conducting a thorough review and are committed to correcting the issues and implementing improvements to notification systems that help customers better anticipate when their power will be restored.
As we do with every major storm, we will thoroughly analyze what could have been done better. Although this was the worst storm in six years, we believe that the significant investments we have made since the 2012 storms in strengthening the electric system, and implementing the state's more thorough tree trimming standards helped limit the damage caused by this storm. We are committed to continued investments in reliability, resiliency and operational best practices while exploring new and creative ways to engage and communicate with our customers.
Even with power restored, clean-up continues. Overhead circuits and poles will be inspected to identify and repair any additional damage before the next inevitable severe weather event. Just as we prepare, we remind our customers to also prepare for the potential of extended power outages.
Throughout the event, many of our customers were extremely patient, expressing their gratitude online or even in-person with words of thanks or cups of coffee. We thank all of our customers for their patience and understanding and for their continued support for the men and women working in tough and dangerous conditions to restore power as quickly and safely as possible.
Storm wind gusts exceeding 70 miles per hour caused more than 430,000 outages by way of fallen trees and damaged equipment, but our crews, working alongside more than 900 workers from supporting utilities based in 13 states and Canada, have helped to restore more than 360,000 customers throughout the weekend.
We appreciate the continuing patience of our customers for reporting outages and expressing their encouragement for workers' safely responding to outages, especially in the areas hardest hit by the storm. Restoration times for customers who are still without power will be available soon on our usual reporting channels, including email and text alerts, BGE.com and our free mobile app available on Google Play and Apple Store platforms.
Other storm-related information is available at the below links.
STORM RESTORATION PROCESS
STORM RESPONSE IMAGES - FLICKR
In advance of BGE crews departing for Puerto Rico in mid-February, vehicles and equipment began heading to the Port of Wilmington in Wilmington, DE on Monday in preparation for a month-long mutual assistance mission to help with continuing restoration efforts on the island.
The departure was personal for two BGE employees. Faviola Donato-Galindo, a senior external affairs specialist and Rafael Olazagasti, manager, vegetation management, are both natives of Puerto Rico. They shared their thoughts on the mutual assistance mission, the support it will provide for their family members living in Puerto Rico, and their pride in BGE's commitment to helping communities in need.
More than 30 vehicles, including bucket trucks, will be transported by barge to Puerto Rico in advance of a 24-person crew which will work in Caguas, helping to restore power to more than 40 percent of residents who have gone without electricity since Hurricanes Irma and Maria made landfall in September 2017.
BGE will join its Exelon sister utilities Atlantic City Electric, ComEd, Delmarva Power, PECO and Pepco as part of a delegation of 140 employees who will support the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority in the recovery effort.
Kristin King, Community Stewardship Analyst
Yesterday, BGE employees honored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's legacy of service by spending the morning at the Cherry Hill Achievement Center with Higher Achievement scholars.
BGE vice president and general counsel Dan Gahagan, who also serves as a board member of the Higher Achievement Program, joined more than a dozen BGE employees in completing various service projects at the center. Projects included creating posters with peace and anti-bullying messages, pinwheels and a 'peace bench.'
Volunteers ended the service project with a bus trip to participate in Baltimore City's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade.
Calvin G. Butler Jr., BGE CEO
I am proud to announce great news! In the J.D. Power 2017 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study released this week, BGE was ranked "Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Business Electric Service in the East among Large Utilities." Our company scored 790 on a 1,000-point scale, earning the top rank among the 11 electric utilities in the region. So, what does this mean?
Essentially, our score of 790 shows a strong performance in six measures of customer satisfaction:
In 2017, we experienced a record year in electric reliability, which we know is important to you. While we appreciate that our efforts on delivering distinctive customer service are being recognized, we know that we must continue to innovate and engage with you, our customer, so that we can continue to serve you better than before.
To best serve you and our community, we've been holding more stakeholder meetings, creating more initiatives like BGE's Smart Energy Savers and Smart Energy Economic Development (SEED) which support businesses of all sizes convert energy savings into business expansion, and volunteering more in our community. Through this and our efforts to continuously improve our customer service, we strive to better serve you.
In 2017 our customers experienced the fewest outages on record. And if an outage did occur, we restored power faster than at most times in our company's history. Now, it is time to get back to work by upgrading our infrastructure, enhancing our maintenance, and continuing to focus on customer service – all to improve your satisfaction.
Wishing you a Happy New Year ahead with many bright moments in 2018.
As temperatures continue to drop with no break in sight, we encourage our customers to prepare for these bitter cold days and nights ahead.
"Heating units, especially heat pumps, work harder to maintain the set temperature during the winter months and we encourage all customers to think about simple steps they can take in their homes and businesses to save energy and use natural gas wisely," said Rodney Oddoye, vice president of customer operations and chief customer officer for BGE.
Families typically spend more time inside during extremely cold weather, but customers should still think about how to conserve energy. This can help make bills more manageable and limit demand increases which, over the long term, can impact market prices.
“We recognize there are some customers who may still be challenged to pay their heating bills. We want you to reach out to us before you’re in a difficult situation so you can take advantage of resources, like the budget billing program,” said Oddoye. Budget billing evens out payments over a 12-month period, making bills more predictable.
While BGE is prepared and expects that the gas supply will meet demand, increased usage during extreme cold can stress our distribution system.BGE will have crews available to respond in the event of increased gas odor calls.
Customers are reminded of the following tips:
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