CT Utility Learns Valuable Preparedness Lessons After Snowstorm

Mix an unexpected Nor’easter in late-October with lackluster preparation, and you have a recipe for disaster. That is what happened recently in Connecticut, when over 800,000 customers of power company Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) lost electricity during the October 29 storm. Following in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene in August, the storm knocked down overburdened trees, snapping power lines in the area and causing widespread power loss.

Emergency response plans before the storm only looked at a worst-case scenario of 100,000 or more of its customers losing power. Considering that number only accounts for less than 10% of the utility’s 1.2 million total customers, it was only a matter of time before that preparedness plan was put to the test. The hospital’s worst-case scenario was exceeded when around two-thirds of its customers lost power last October.

In addition to the failure of CL&P’s emergency response plan, the utility did not have any of its regular crews in the field. This was despite their emergency plan’s call for the pre-positioning of key personnel in anticipation of a severe storm.

The final issue that elicited a lot of customer anger and frustration against the utility was the promise that 99% of those affected would have power by November 6. Not only was this goal not met, but power was not returned to all their customers until November 9, 11 days after the storm.

CL&P was not totally to blame, as was revealed by Witt Associates in a report commissioned by the Governor of Connecticut, Dannel P. Malloy. Lack of effective communication between governmental agencies and those involved in the recovery efforts was also cited as an area needing improvement. This is one of several breakdowns not completely within the power company’s control, the report said.

According to the report, 27 areas of improvement were recommended by Witt Associates. CL&P is currently reviewing those recommendations and will give their feedback once finished. An eight-person panel, The Two Storm committee, was also formed by Governor Malloy following Tropical Storm Irene and the October 29 storm. Eventually, the Governor wants a Master Plan developed that would improve response time during future storms.

For more information about the lessons learned by CL&P following last October’s storm, visit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/report-conn-utilitys-lack-of-preparedness-delayed-outrage-repairs-after-october-snowstorm/2011/12/02/gIQAyALuKO_story.html