Potomac Edison reviews hurricane response
by Jazz Clark
Hurricane Sandy response was revisited by Charlene Gilliam, external affairs manager for Potomac Edison power company, at the Morgan County Commission meeting on November 15.
Since the region has been wracked by storms such as Hurricane Sandy this year, Gilliam wanted to make sure everyone knew what to do to get power restored in an emergency situation.
“After the situation in the end of June and first part of July, I had thought we had seen the storm of the century,” Gilliam said. “I was wrong.”
Her most important point was to call 1-888-544-4877 at the first sign of a power outage. Reporting the information about every outage will give the electric company an idea of where to work first.
Even if your neighbors have already reported an outage, you should as well, she said.
Potomac Edison urges customers to update their street addresses and phone numbers with the company so their house can be mapped in the case of power emergencies.
“We can’t help you if we can’t find you. We need to have your 911 address on your account,” Gilliam said.
One complaint often received is that customers see a service truck drive on past their house when they have no power.
Gilliam explained that substations and other facilities that would restore power to the largest number of people need to be targeted before individual homes.
With new technology, customers will receive robotic cell phone calls asking whether they have power, as well as an automated system to handle high numbers of calls.
Commissioner Brad Close said he called at 1:30 a.m. to report his power out and got a customer service representative who told him that Berkeley Springs was a lovely place.
Previously, David Michael, director of County Emergency Services, discussed several concerns he had for future emergencies at the County Commission on November 1.
Much of it had to do with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the county emergency plan.
Speaking of Hurricane Sandy, Michael said: “This last event was handled better than the June windstorm, but there are always ways to improve. We need to implement that plan better during events.”
For instance, he would like better training people in power like commissioners, mayors and town councils. He thought they should take the advanced level NIMS classes.
“Someday we might be hit by a more major disaster and we need to be prepared,” Michael said.
He hopes to be able to sit down officials and run simulations to know what decisions should be made in emergencies.
Ultimately, Michael would like state of emergency proclamations to be the tripwire which thrusts the county officials from normal business to support mode.
He would like proclamations to be announced days ahead of time, which can be accomplished with mapping technology.
“We need to learn how to communicate between agencies and use all of our resources to the maximum benefit of the county,” Michael said.