Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today (Dec. 2) joined Witt Associates Vice President Charles Fisher to discuss his firm’s report on how Connecticut’s public utility companies and the state handled power restoration following the freak snowstorm of Oct. 29, 2011.
The report, which was completed on an expedited timeline, details a number of key findings and recommendations for how utility companies can do a better job of responding to this kind of emergency.
The storm dumped as much as 20 inches of snow on some parts of the state, and left more than 800,000 residents – as well as businesses, schools, government buildings and others – without power – some for as long as 9 days.
Crews were called in from across the country, and clean up continued even after power had been restored statewide.
Former CL&P President Jeff Butler, the man behind the microphone during daily updates on power restoration efforts, resigned as a result of an avalanche of criticism concerning CL&P’s handling of the crisis.
The report announced at a press conference at 10 a.m. today also points out possible improvements for state and municipal governments, including the need for better communication systems between emergency management personnel and public utilities.
“This was an unprecedented storm that caused real hardship for many of our residents,” said Gov. Malloy. “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,” Gov. Malloy said referring to the committee he formed to study response to both the August tropical storm Irene, and October’s Storm Alfred (the unofficial name of that storm).
“Our expert expedited evaluation of this unprecedented event revealed significant shortcomings in preparedness, communications and public/private sector cooperation,” said Vice President Preparedness Operations for Witt Associates Charlie Fisher.
Witt Associates, headed by the former head of FEMA, was called in by Gov. Malloy to do an independent review. It is doing this preliminary work gratis.
“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,” Fisher said.
Planning, response, communication
Gov. Malloy said Witt’s report outlines three main areas of concern regarding CL&P: planning, response and communication.
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 pre-stage 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, but the company announced this date as a public performance commitment. This announcement unnecessarily “contributed to community angst” and increased customer frustration and challenges for municipal governments.
- The report also points out that “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.”
Improving state and local response
Gov. Malloy has directed the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) to review the plans currently in place at the state and municipal levels with an eye toward creating a “master plan” that would lay out how the state should work with municipalities and the utilities, should an event like the October storm 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,” Gov. 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.”
While the Witt report primarily concentrates on CL&P, Gov. Malloy said he believes United Illuminating (UI) should “glean what it can” from the report to improve its disaster preparedness plans.
“The primary objective of the review was to identify opportunities for improvement going forward,” Fisher said.
He added, “While it is our desire to be helpful in this review, it is very important to recognize that there were millions of successful actions taken by utility, local and state government personnel to clear the roads and restore power for individual citizens; their schools, businesses, and communities should be commended. In addition, we appreciate the cooperation of state, local, utility, and labor officials which made this expedited review meaningful and possible.”
Fisher will now present his findings to the Two Storm Panel, which has met six times since it was initially created by Gov. Malloy in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene.
The eight-member group will ultimately present its own set of recommendations.
To download a copy of the report, go to: www.wittassociates.com
Additional information on the Two Storm Panel, including past announcements, meeting agendas and minutes, can be found at http://governor.ct.gov/workinggroups
Posted Dec. 2, 2011
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