Power Companies to Improve Communication [AUDIO]
By summer, the state's utility companies will be required to increase interaction with their customers before and after major weather events, as well as during widespread power outages. Improved communication is one of the many mandatory improvements adopted by the Board of Public Utilities after Superstorm Sandy.
BPU Secretary Kristi Izzo testified before an Assembly panel Thursday on the 100-plus measures, most of which should be implemented by June.
The board ordered that pre-storm messages be delivered to their customers to help them prepare for worst-case scenarios.
"We're also requiring the utilities to use different kinds of media like social media, web sites, press releases, e-mails, texts," Izzo explained. "Messaging must also be clear and concise."
The board's order also makes it mandatory for utility companies to provide a separate web page for each municipality in their service territory. The intent is to make sure customers understand how electric service is coming to their town and how long power restoration may take. Some communities were left in the dark for weeks after Sandy made landfall.
While Assembly members praised the BPU's efforts to increase communication between the utilities and customers, they questioned how the bonus info can be accessed when the power is out.
"Without electricity, that really doesn't help anyone," said Assemblywoman Donna Simon, who noted a good chuck of the senior citizen population doesn't own a computer or smartphone.
The BPU's measures also address infrastructure and trees, which oftentimes are the reason for downed power lines.
"The utilities, under this order, are required to create plans to track outages related to trees, and to analyze the impacts of trees on their system reliability," Izzo said.
She continued, "We can spend any amount of money, and we will never, ever prevent all the outages. But the board wants to make sure that we are doing as much as we can to minimize the outages and minimize their duration."