Utility Companies admit they can do better

September 20, 2011
Utility leaders testify at a joint committee hearing on the impact of storm Irene in Hartford.

Utility leaders testify at a joint committee hearing on the impact of storm Irene in Hartford.

Sen. Boucher: real time communication is essential during a crisis

Hartford, CT – Leaders from the states largest utility companies testified Monday before a joint legislative committee hearing on the response during storm Irene.

Senator Toni Boucher (R-Wilton), monitoring the hearings all day is supportive of the process and was one of several lawmakers who called on the utility companies to explain their process before the legislature.

“Real time accurate communication and a plan of action are essential during a crisis. It is clear from Monday’s hearings many of the company leaders admitted they need to do better particularly in these areas,” said Senator Toni Boucher. “It took them too long to find the severity of the problem and they did not have communication tools to keep their customers informed.”

As the public hearing continued it was clear there was at least a two to three day delay before serious action was taken.

Senator Boucher says procedures and protocols, as well as communication between the utility’s home office, town officials, first responders and line crews needs improvement – particularly, when there was enough lead time provided by weather forecasters.

“There is no reason they couldn’t have had a communication system in place that does not require people ahead of the actual event,” added Sen. Boucher.

In Boucher’s 26th district, local leaders from the towns of Ridgefield, Wilton, Redding, New Canaan all reported they were completely with out power for three days before action was taken and hundreds of roads were blocked.

“Once crews were deployed from with in Connecticut and as far away as Nevada and Missouri things started to finally happen.” said Sen. Boucher. The proper systems should be put in place in the following areas;

  • Better real time communication protocols between towns and utilities,
  • Technology upgrades should be created- model Fed EX or UPS systems to track outage updates,
  • Prioritize homes that are on septic systems versus well water,
  • Recognize vulnerable populations- the elderly and sick,
  • Ease utility restrictions on where trees can be pre-trimmed.

Senator Boucher added, “I have received great feedback from constituents and many praised the uniform local response. Some towns even provided bottled water and dinner for those who were without during the aftermath.”

Senator Boucher is hopeful much will be learned from these hearings on the storm and all groups will work together so the next natural disaster is handled better.

A second hearing is scheduled for September 26 at the Legislative Office Building. The focus will be on the public and what their concerns are.