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Report: Where UI, CL&P Faltered in Storm Reponse

Malloy wants 'master plan' to determine how the state should work with utilities and municipalities for future events.

Witt Associates, which was tasked by the state with examining Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating's performance following the , released a report on Friday that outlined where the utility companies fell short in their mission to restore power to more than 800,000 customers.

“Our expert expedited evaluation of this unprecedented event revealed significant shortcomings in preparedness, communications and public/private sector cooperation,” Charlie Fisher, vice president, preparedness operations for Witt Associates, said. “Based on our findings and past experience, we believe, if implemented, the 27 recommendations for improvement will build a strong foundation allowing Connecticut communities to recover from such events in a more expedited and cooperative process.”

According to the report:

"CL&P was not prepared for an event of this size. The worst-case scenario in the company’s emergency response plan considered outages over 100,000 customers, or less than 10 percent of their total customer base. At peak, 809,097 customers — about two-thirds of its base — lost power as a result of the October snowstorm.

"CL&P did not lean forward by pre-staging adequate restoration resources in advance of the October 29 snowstorm; this delayed the recovery effort in the first days.  

"CL&P developed an internal stretch goal to restore power to 99 percent of all customers by Sunday, Nov. 6, even though they appeared to know it was more likely that they wouldn’t hit that goal until Wednesday, Nov. 9. Without vetting internally, the company announced this date as a public performance commitment.  This announcement, and a subsequent commitment to restore 99 percent of all customers in each of 149 municipalities by November 6, unnecessarily contributed to community angst and increased customer frustration and challenges for municipal governments."

After reviewing United Illuminating's performance, the report stated the following:

"After the October snowstorm, all UI customers were restored by the night of Wednesday, November 2. The company reported maintaining good situational awareness throughout this event, though UI staff noted that the situation was much more challenging during Irene."

"The company’s greatest challenge was providing Estimated Restoration Times for individual towns or customers; the company is confident of its global restoration time model."

"UI reports having technology initiative in development to improve the granularity of individual forecasts. UI staff noted that in a large-impact event, its restoration organization and operation are able to scale up to respond, but it recognizes that communication with towns gets far more complex and challenging to manage in a larger event."

In response, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he was glad to have the report in time to prepare for the winter season.

“This was an unprecedented storm that caused real hardship for many of our residents,” Governor Malloy said. “But if something good came out of it, it’s that it’s giving us the chance to put in place an unprecedented level of response should it be necessary in the future.  Thanks to Witt Associates, we have a report that will help our public utilities and state government understand what went wrong, why it went wrong, and how to fix it.  And this is just the first step – what we need to do in the short term to get ready for the winter ahead.  I am still looking forward to the long term plan the Two Storm Panel will ultimately produce, as well as to a more detailed follow-up report from an outside consultant.”

The report also criticized state and local preparation for dealing with such an event:

“Public sector emergency response planning at the state and local levels does not adequately focus on actions needed in a significant power outage and assignment of responsibilities in mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery in utility disruption events.  State and local plans call for reports from power companies but do not address multi-agency actions or coordination needed to address energy disruption.”

As a result, Malloy said, he has asked the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection to come up with a "master plan" to determine "how the state should work with municipalities and the utilities should an event like this occur again."

“We have plans in place at the state and municipal levels, but there isn’t one, centralized master plan that shows how state government should interact amongst its own agencies, and how the state should coordinate its own activities with those of the utilities and municipal governments,” Malloy said.  “It’s a fair point. Pulling together that plan from what we have in various places is what I’m asking our State Director of Emergency Management Bill Hackett to do.”

The full report can be viewed on the attached PDF, or at the Witt Associates website.

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