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Does Communication From Town, CL&P Need To Be Improved?

One reader asks what the town is doing about CL&P's "evident indifference."

 

A knocked out power to more than 1,000 households in Madison. As of 10 p.m. on Friday, power had been restored to all but one unfortunate customer in town, but even some of those who had their power back were not entirely happy.

For some Madison Patch readers on Facebook, the power outage was not the only frustrating part of that experience. Several reported on Facebook that they were having problems getting reliable restoration estimates from CL&P, and that communication from the company on this important bit of information was not timely.

A company spokesman said Thursday night that the nature of the storm, repeated rounds of wind gusts Wednesday night and throughout the day Thursday created a situation where CL&P would fix one outage, only to find another one cropping up across town. He said that made it difficult for the company to provide estimates for some households.

I understand that.

Still, having weathered Irene, then the freak October snowstorm, then Sandy, and several other minor weather or other events that knocked power out, I've begun to realize how important it is to have an estimate as to when power is going to be restored.

That's true any time of the year. Will the food in the fridge and freezer have to be moved to the house of a friend who has power? In the winter, the question becomes, how long can we stay in the house before it gets too cold? If a family member is sick with a cold or the flu, that question becomes even more important.

Are we really to the point where we all should have generators for essential services in our house, along with woodstoves to tide us over during repeated power outages and the uncertainty that comes along with that? I'm not a prepper by any stretch of the imagination, but being without power gets old quickly.

Phil Steiner, who lives on Allison Drive in Madison, says he was frustrated during the outage this past week, not only with CL&P's inability to give a timely restoration estimate, but also by the town's inability to provide more information to people who remained without power for a full day.

"Where is CL&P?  Where is the town?" he said in response to a story on the power outages. "At 5:30 Thursday night, when 374 houses were out, the town phone went to voice mail--leave a message. Where is the emergency liaison with CL&P that our First Selectman was so happy to report on after Irene? Unreachable."

Steiner then called Madison Police Department dispatch, on the non-emergency line.

"The police dispatcher, when I called on the non-emergency line, was able to reach the liaison on his cell. The dispatcher told me the liaison was getting no information from CL&P either," Steiner said. "What improvements were made in the wake of Sandy and Irene?"

Steiner then called a supervisor at CL&P customer service, at 5:45 PM yesterday, that told Steiner that his neighborhood was "not a priority," Steiner said. Steiner said he found this frustrating, along with the fact that 18 hours after the power went out, there were still a tree on the wires close to the neighborhood.

"Where is the town government's response to CL&P's evident indifference?" he asked. The power finally came back on, on Allison Drive, sometime between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Friday.

First Selectman Fillmore McPherson said Friday afternoon that he has seen some improvement in CL&P's efforts to communicate with the town, but that there is still room for more improvement.

McPherson was careful to make the distinction between the kind of information the town is seeking, and the kind of information individual households might need in the wake of a storm.

The town needs information from CL&P to facilitate coordinate among the utility, the town's emergency responders, and the town's public work crews so that emergency situations, including blown transformers, and trees tangled in wires obstructing public roads, can be dealt with in a timely manner.

During the outages that took place on Wednesday and Thursday, McPherson said he also was getting some information from the company about which streets were out of power. By Thursday, the company was able to identify which parts of town had the largest outages. "We were able to communicate back and forth on that," he said. He said at one point on Thursday, "practically every street had somebody [without power], there were very widespread outages."

McPherson said he heard from several people in town that restoration estimates were not provided in a timely manner.

"At the bottom of it, the estimates of restoration are still going to have to come from CL&P. I'm getting some comments from people about shifting information from CL&P. My thrust has been to make sure they are moving on all fronts," he said.

McPherson said he plans to continue to press CL&P to improve its communication and coordination, and that he has another meeting planned for next week to discuss that with company officials.

If you could make a suggestion to McPherson as to what he should ask CL&P officials on behalf of people who live in town, whether at this meeting or another meeting, what would that be?

Matt February 02, 2013 at 07:09 AM
I think people need to be prepared to be without regardless. Prepare to be without power for days, and prepare to have no information for days. Even if CL&P wasn't abysmal at communicating, it is entirely possible that you might not have any means of receiving that communication anyway. Everyone should have the means to get by for several days on their own. It really isn't difficult for the vast majority of people. Dress appropriate, have lights, batteries, water, and a radio. And be calm and reasonable. If your family has special needs (medical, physical, etc), YOU need to prepare for that. It is not the power company's or town government's job to plan for you. If that means leaving town for a hotel, or having a generator, or having alternate heating, then you need to be prepared to do what you need to do. So many people are so cozy with their power and cell phones that they make no effort to prepare for it being turned off. Power and communication are such fragile systems that are taken extremely for granted. 10 years ago, one tree touching one power line in Ohio took out the entire electrical grid for the northeast. Cleveland to NYC to Boston to Bangor and parts of Canada. The communication infrastructure was overloaded and rendered useless within a few minutes and remained essentially toast until the situation was resolved. I have no faith in McPherson or CL&P to make anything better. So it's all on you, me, and everyone else to do it yourself.
Die Harder February 02, 2013 at 11:06 AM
My comment on a different story was deleted because Pem didnt agree with it. I have no faith in McPherson. I think we are all on our own
Mike Atkins February 02, 2013 at 11:44 AM
In my experience with CL&P is that they are completly corrupt. From the top to the guys "fixing" the lines.The guys in the trucks lie all the time and cheat the company, so much of the information that gets filtered through is false any way. Had a truck by my house for a day an a half and when I called CL&P they denied that a truck was there or even in the area. I said "I am looking at them right now!" The manager I spoke with said that the guys in the trucks make up their hours and sometimes don't even report what they have worked on. My suggestion is to photograph every CL&P truck and worker when they are close to you home so that you can recored their efforts unless there're goofing and hiding.
Janet February 02, 2013 at 12:12 PM
I understand that it takes time for restoration after a storm. but there us no use having a liaison if the answer is constantly "i dont know". It seems that the "liaison" is not empowered or not senior enough to get answers/ results. That is what they need to fix.
M. C. February 02, 2013 at 01:36 PM
Matt...I agree w/ most of your comment...More of us that are prepared, the better it will be for all of us. http://www.augasonfarms.com/index.php?route=common/home
Maggie Walden February 02, 2013 at 04:38 PM
We live on Matthew Court which is off Allison Drive. What added to our frustration is that the exact same strip of about 100 feet on Greenhill Rd was the cause for outage in Irene and Sandy; the exact same utility poles struck down by trees from the exact same space, which I believe is Conservation Trust land. I hate to think we must await damaged tree by damaged tree to "remove" themselves. The tree in question on Thursday was clearly rotten inside. I thought there was to be an effort to assess trees near power lines that should be trimmed or removed. The power going along these lines is higher voltage and Greenhill Rd is a busy east/ west road. When I called CL&P I questioned the safety for a large truck passing under the hanging tree in the dark as the only marker for the downed line were several very small cones. I know the line was dead but the rest of the hanging tree could have been caught up in a larger truck passing by at night. By the way, the line was finally repaired some 30 hours later by an out of state company! I wonder if this the new normal....
BL Davis February 02, 2013 at 05:57 PM
Our electric grid in the USA is part of our outdated infrastructure that has long passed its ability to keep up with increased population and an ever growing number of products that run on electricity. Unfortunately, the power industry, like the post WW II steel industry, has failed to invest in itself or in Research & Development. Like the steel industry, the power industry has instead used its profits for increasing dividends and for enriching management. CL&P has increased dividends almost 300% in the last few years, while simultaneously laying off linemen. Maybe a new industry will develop so that each individual home owner can have his own power supply. More immediately, maybe the public can elect legislators or educate their legislators to actually force CL&P and NU to put its customer constituency ahead of its shareholder constituency

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