Two weeks after the ‘Frankenstorm,’ also known as Sandy, hit Connecticut, power has been restored to almost all customers who were affected by the widespread outages that accompanied the storm.
After the two major outages that occurred in 2011 due to Tropical Storm Irene and the Halloween nor’easter, the utility companies in the state promised to look at their storm response to address issues during restoration. Governor Dannel Malloy also ordered an investigation into the companies’ preparation for and response to the two storms. Thanks in large part to this response, many people had hope that UI would have a better plan in place for repairing power outages caused by Sandy.
In the hours after the storm ended and clean-up efforts began, it looked as though a lesson might have been learned from the response to the 2011 outages. Even UI’s press conferences that took place on Tuesday seemed to offer hope for a better response.
One would think that UI would emphasize communication and keeping customers informed would be a higher priority after all of the public outrage following last years’ storms. Instead, the press conferences quickly devolved into restating the crews were working as hard as they could to restore power. Even worse, a promise that customers would be able to view restorations estimates online never came to fruition.
It is impossible to say what UI’s motivation is for keeping customers in the dark, no pun intended. However, if the fear of angering customers was the reasoning then these companies have a lot to learn.
No one wants to be told they are going to have to wait for days to have their power restored. But allowing people to have this information is also important, especially when temperatures are rapidly dropping.
When you don’t know if you should expect your power turned on sooner or later, it is difficult to make arrangements to preserve frozen food or even arrange to stay elsewhere. It is a rare person who will be pleased to find out they went through the effort of transporting food, or even some possessions, just to find out their power has been turned back on.
Given that storms of this nature on well on their way to becoming the new normal, major power outages should also not be treated as abnormalities. In the future, customers need to be kept informed as to when they can expect their power to be restored. Plans for disseminating this information need to be worked on now, not when the next major outage strikes.