Report on utilities response following nor'easter released
STAMFORD -- A long awaited report on the response of the state's largest power utilities following last March's nor'easter has identified communication with cities and municipalities as an area where both companies fell short.
Connecticut Light and Power and United Illuminating Company were "reactive" in their communications with city officials following the storm, according to two separate reports on each company. This evaluation is consistent with the experience Stamford had with CL&P during the crisis, said Police Capt. Tom Lombardo, the city's emergency management director.
"The report's executive summary seems pretty much on the mark," he said. "I have not read the full report."
Stamford's emergency management team was unable to get in touch with CL&P immediately following the storm, Lombardo said.
"We weren't really getting anywhere with the 800 number," he said. "And we were using their protocol, following their policies."
As soon as CL&P's local office opened the following day, however, two workers immediately joined the emergency management team at its office and worked 12 to 16 hours a day for three to four days coordinating power restoration, Lombardo said.
"The local office has always been responsive and this was no exception," he said. "We were pleased with that."
The two reports examining the performances of CL&P and UI following the March storm that left 100,000 homes and businesses in Connecticut without power were released Wednesday afternoon. Gov. M. Jodi Rell ordered the review in March after the utilities were accused of having not acted quickly enough to restore power. The reports were prepared for the Department of Public Utility Control by the consulting firm Jacobs Consultancy.
The DPUC has designated from now until Nov. 10 as a time for public comment about the reports. The state will then decide whether to take further action against the companies, said Phil Dukes, spokesman for DPUC.
The governor has not yet read the reports, which are both close to 100 pages in length, but plans to do so soon, said spokesman Adam Liegeot Wednesday afternoon. Daniel Warzoha, Greenwich's emergency management director, said Wednesday he had also not yet read the reports.
The wind and rain damage in Fairfield County was heaviest in Stamford and Greenwich, where tens of thousands of buildings lost power on March 13 and 14. It took up to six days to restore power in some areas, a delay that angered many customers. The state held public hearings on CL&P's response following the storm in several towns last April.
Rell announced at the beginning of October that more than $14 million in federal disaster relief aid has been distributed for homes, businesses and infrastructure damaged by the storm in Fairfield County and eastern Connecticut. The amount included $5.1 million for more than 2,500 private residences that sustained damage.
The two reports listed continuing to "develop enhanced communication capabilities with cities and municipalities" as a primary recommendation for improvement for both companies. CL&P and UI recognized their deficiencies in this area and have already begun proactive work to establish continuous communication with town officials and improve customer service systems, the reports said.
The consultant also identified expanding employee training and improving the company's relationship with its union workers as areas where CL&P needs to improve.
"The company is not fully following its Emergency Response Plan when conducting its after action/lessons-learned activities," the report said. "Enhanced training at all levels can produce an improvement in response success and could improve overall outage duration."
The report suggests CL&P expand the scope of its review of emergency responses to include input from field workers and supervisors. It also described the company's relationship with its unions as "strained" and recommended both parties take steps to work out their differences.