State Leaders Aim to Improve Response to Storms - NECN

State Leaders Aim to Improve Response to Storms



    A propositioned bill would require power companies to stay in touch with customers who have lost power (Published Friday, Jan. 17, 2014)

    (NECN: Katelyn Tivnan) - People in Fitchburg and beyond know the first snowfall of the season can come early - for example - the October snowstorm of 2011.

    That storm left thousands in the dark in Worcester County for days.    

    But state leaders are hoping to push utilities to do better the next time around - with a new bill.    

    Walter Page has lived in his Worcester neighborhood for more than 25 years. But he says his street was almost unrecognizable after the October snow storm tore down trees and power lines - leaving most people in the dark.

    “Some neighbors lost power for over a week, elderly neighbors had to leave their homes,” said Page.

    152 thousand National Grid customers in Worcester County alone lost power during the storm. The outages lasted for days and lead to many frustrations.

    Tuesday state leaders sent a storm response bill to the governor for approval. The goal is to improve public utilities' emergency response plans.

    “I would like to see it signed and they deserve to get a fine for what happened,” said Page.

    “State Senator Harriet Chandler says the bill addresses past communication failures between the companies, affected customers, and local cities and towns. 

    “People were calling and no answer and some call centers were quite remote, not even in the state,” said Chandler.

    The bill would require utility companies to set up call centers during major storms. They would also need to update customers three times a day on when their power might be restored. A designated staff member from the utility company would work with MEMA to coordinate a statewide response.

    Also, each company would pay an assessment charge to help the department of public utilities for storm investigations.

    “Confident governor will sign a bill because it's something across the state have been complaining about and this is the remedy and I think it's a good one,” said Chandler.

    “If it opens their eyes to what they did and next time it will be better but hopefully there isn't a next time,” said Page.