One Year Later: What Did You Learn from Tropical Storm Irene?
A year after the storm hit, what lessons did New England learn from Tropical Storm Irene passing through?
Earlier this month, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced that she is seeking to fine NStar $9.7 million for "failed responses" in both Irene and "Snowtober."
Nstar has challenged the fine, and Nstar released a statement the same day disagreeing with Coakley's assessment. "Nstar Electric customers fared better than others in Massachusetts and throughout New England," the statement said.
In the statement, Werner Schweiger, President of NSTAR Electric said that all storms are opportunities to "identify areas of improvement," but that "we have not reached a stage where technology is resistant to storm damage.”
Tropical Storm Irene hit on Aug. 28, 2011, and much of the Boston-area dodged a bullet in terms of storm damage, although a number of Patch readers posted pictures of damaged trees and closed roads in the aftermath.
So, what about the next storm?
According to a press release from National Grid, another company that provides electricity to some Massachusetts cities and towns (and gas to Brookline), after the storm hit on Aug 28, 2011, the utility company reviewed its storm response procedures and reports improvements.
See the National Grid video on why service interruptions happen during storms, and what customers can do about it to the right
“We understand and acknowledge that many of our customers and communities were frustrated by the multi-day outages during Irene,” said Marcy Reed, president of National Grid in Massachusetts in the release. “I want them to know that we are determined to restore their faith in our ability to effectively respond to major storms and we will continue to make improvements in this area.”
For smartphone users, the Red Cross released a Hurricane Preparedness app at the beginning of August, to help users prepare for the next storm that makes it up the coast.
The following is a press release from National Grid:
NATIONAL GRID IMPLEMENTS LESSONS LEARNED FROM TROPICAL STORM IRENE
Service Restoration Improvements and Better Communications in Place at One Year Anniversary. New Video Explains Power Restoration Process, Provides Storm Prep Guidance for Customers
One year ago Tropical Storm Irene battered the eastern seaboard creating unprecedented damage and interrupting electric service to millions along the east coast. As of August 28, 2011, it was the most severe storm to hit New England in 20 years.
Massachusetts was not spared from Irene’s wrath. Her fury ravaged National Grid’s electricity system and left more than 518,000 customers without power in 170 of the 172 communities served by National Grid in the state. From that devastation has come innovation in the way National Grid prepares for severe weather, allocates its resources to restore power more quickly, and communicates with its customers and public safety officials.
“We understand and acknowledge that many of our customers and communities were frustrated by the multi-day outages during Irene,” said Marcy Reed, president of National Grid in Massachusetts. “I want them to know that we are determined to restore their faith in our ability to effectively respond to major storms and we will continue to make improvements in this area.”
“Since last fall we have conducted a comprehensive review of our approach to storm response that includes significant input from customers, local and state elected and public safety officials to identify and address areas for improvement. We have made good progress and are working hard to do better,” Reed said. “These changes, combined with investing nearly $500 million this year in our Massachusetts electric system to maintain it and strengthen its reliability, will help us better serve customers and be better prepared for what Mother Nature may bring.”
Since Irene, National Grid has implemented many new or enhanced practices including:
- A review of every National Grid employee’s storm assignment to maximize their ability to contribute during storms and to help expedite restoration. Particular attention was paid to enhancing resources to support wires down and damage assessment.
- An enhanced damage assessment process that will enable information from the field to be gathered more rapidly, which, coupled with data from existing outage reporting systems will allow National Grid to more quickly and accurately determine where to send crews. This, in turn, will enable the company to determine estimated restoration times faster for customers and communities.
- Expanding contractor relationships that cover a wider geographic area. This effort is focused on contractors in the Midwest and South to increase flexibility and responsiveness in any type of storm. National Grid also has established standardized processes and methods to ensure that contractors are available and ready when needed and to speed deployment of their crews to the field once they arrive.
- A “community liaison” program in which a company representative is assigned to every affected community during a storm to provide community officials direct contact with the company. The company has a corps of trained community liaisons ready to be deployed during future storms and emergencies.
National Grid also is collaborating with local communities on aggressive tree trimming to help limit outages during future weather events. It has enhanced management of wires down situations to free-up local police and fire and has improved dispatching and tracking of outside crews to speed restoration. The company has enhanced customer communication and engagement and will reach out to customers as severe weather approaches to advise them of potential outages and has expanded its use of social media sources to communicate with customers. Providing more extensive notification of impending severe weather to cities and towns and more channels through which municipalities can communicate with the company also is part of the company’s enhanced storm preparation plan.
National Grid has produced an informational video that is now available to customers. It details some of the reasons for service interruptions, what must be done to restore power safely and quickly, and what customers can do in the event of an outage. The video can be viewed on the Outage Central page of National Grid’s website at https://www1.nationalgridus.com/OutageCentralHub. It is also available on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GTUh9pR-Ag&feature=youtu.be