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A simple plan to keep public informed

Published November 13. 2012 4:00AM

Now that power knocked out by Hurricane Sandy has almost completely been restored throughout the state, Connecticut residents - who in some storm-ravaged municipalities endured more than a week without electricity - at least can say, "Well, at least we're not living on Staten Island, N.Y., or parts of Long Island, or on the Jersey Shore."

More than two weeks after the so-called superstorm slammed into the East Coast, tens of thousands of utility customers in those two states are still living in the dark - literally and figuratively - and the natives are getting restless.

There have been mandatory rationing and fist fights at filling stations, where dwindling gas supplies and power outages have produced long lines of frustrated motorists, as well as demonstrations outside utility headquarters, where furious villagers doubtlessly would have traded in protest signs for torches if they had access to fuel to keep them lit.

Connecticut Light & Power has done an exemplary job when compared to the Long Island Power Authority, New York's Consolidated Edison, Jersey Central Power & Light and Public Service Electric and Gas Company of New Jersey.

Of course, Connecticut, dealt a glancing blow by the Oct. 29 hurricane, did not sustain nearly as much damage or the casualties as New York or New Jersey, which took a direct hit. At its peak the storm knocked out power to about 650,000 people in Connecticut, a small portion of the nearly 8.5 million who lost electricity in 10 states - most of them New York and New Jersey.

Though residents and authorities have given CL&P generally high marks for emergency preparations and to a lesser extent for mobilizing repair crews, they have faulted Connecticut's largest utility for failing to provide accurate, up-to-date status reports.

This newspaper agrees.

Residents who lose power can more readily accept being informed that service definitely won't be restored for a week than to be told nothing from day to day, and left to guess when the electricity might come on.

CL&P spokesman Frank Poirot acknowledged Monday that the utility could have done a better job keeping the public updated on restoration efforts.

"We understand peoples' frustration. We hear loud and clear the need for more information," he said.

Mr. Poirot said CL&P has launched an internal assessment of its response to Sandy, and one aspect will focus on letting people know repair schedules ahead of time.

This makes all the sense in the world.

Supervisors must be aware at the beginning of each day how many work crews will be dispatched to various neighborhoods, or at least to individual municipalities. This information could be downloaded to a public website so residents and businesses can make plans either to wait for repairs or to relocate until the power comes back on.

By the same token the public must keep in mind that repair crews are not miracle workers, particularly after a hurricane packing as big a punch as Sandy.

Technological advances and today's faster pace have made us so accustomed to a demand for instant satisfaction that we have lost one of humanity's most valued virtues: patience.

People must also recognize that the power can't automatically be switched on simply after broken wires are replaced, particularly, as in the case of Sandy, there is water and structural damage.

In many cases building inspectors and electrical contractors must check first to ensure that power restoration won't cause fires or other hazards.

Mr. Poirot of CL&P said that as of Monday some 1,000 buildings in Connecticut remained without power while they await such inspections.

Above all, people must concede that sometimes all the power crews in the world are no match for Mother Nature's wrath.

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