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UTILITY PERFORMANCE REPORT FOLLOWING THE OCTOBER 2011 NORTHEASTER
New York State Department of Public Service JUNE 2012
TABLE OF CONTENTS
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ......................................................................................... 1 HURRCANE IRENE AND TROPICAL STORM LEE – OUTSTANDING IMPROVEMENT OPPORTUNITIES ....................................................................... 4 PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT .............................................................................. 6 Overview .......................................................................................................... 6 Orange and Rockland ..................................................................................... 10 New York State Electric and Gas .................................................................... 15 Central Hudson .............................................................................................. 18 Con Edison ..................................................................................................... 20 CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS .......................................................... 22 Attachment 1 – Hurricane Irene Recommendations ......................................... 25
On Friday, October 28, 2011, initial weather forecasts indicated that a Northeaster was in route to our region and it was expected to bring snow to the Catskills, the Hudson Valley, and the Taconic region of the State.1 A winter storm warning was issued by the National Weather Service on Saturday, October 29. It forecast significant amounts of heavy, wet snow—up to seven inches in areas along the Hudson River and up to ten inches in the southeastern portion of the state. The forecasts predicted widespread power outages as a result of snow accumulations on foliage-laden tree branches. Snow began to fall mid-day Saturday and continued through the night. By Saturday evening, the utility companies had begun to report numerous electric service interruptions due to heavy snow and wind gusts. This Northeaster was the third major weather event to hit the region in three months. In some areas, the October storm caused greater tree damage and power outages than Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee—storms that occurred in August and September of 2011, respectively. In total, service to over 400,000 customers was disrupted due to branches and trees sagging and breaking on utility infrastructure. Overall, this service restoration effort took eight days to complete. Following the October storm, Staff investigated the performances of the Consolidated Edison Company of New York (Con Edison), New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG), Central Hudson Gas and Electric (Central Hudson), and Orange and Rockland Utilities (Orange and Rockland)—all of which sustained customer outages that lasted greater than 72 hours. Staff’s investigation also assessed whether the utilities were properly prepared for the Northeaster; whether they responded appropriately in its aftermath; whether they have identified the lessons learned from this storm; and, whether they are taking all necessary corrective actions. We have also examined the
New York City was also forecast to be hit by the storm but to a lesser extent than the upstate regions.
communications they used to inform customers, the media, and government officials of the service restoration efforts. Our review of the October snowstorm has found utility company deficiencies similar to those indentified by our performance review of the utility company efforts for Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Thus, the recommendations presented in the Utility Performance Report Following Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee likewise pertain to the utility responses to this storm.2 Our investigation generally found (except for Orange and Rockland) that the utility companies did not have substantial difficulties acquiring the crews they needed to perform the service restoration work, and they maintained adequate communications with the public, the media, and public officials via traditional communication channels; however, the utilities still could do more to take advantage or alternative communication technologies, such as social media, to communicate with customers. We did find, however, that NYSEG should have issued some of its estimated times of restoration (ETRs) sooner than it did in those Divisions that were less affected by the storm. We also found that NYSEG failed to contact its customers using life support equipment ahead of the storm. Further, for some Divisions, NYSEG needs to train additional personnel to serve as wire guards. With respect to Orange and Rockland, our investigation found that the utility did not perform well in several respects. Issues that existed with the Company’s Hurricane Irene restoration efforts also existed for this storm. During Hurricane Irene, Orange and Rockland was able to manage the storm’s effects better than it did for the October snowstorm because it had supplemented and pre-staged personnel prior to its arrival. In October, Orange and Rockland was overwhelmed by the damage caused by the heavy snow and did not respond as well to the storm conditions it faced this time around. We found that the Company was slow to supplement crew levels with either
See Attachment 1 to this report which lists the Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee related recommendations that are applicable here.
the mutual assistance available from other utility companies or by using independent contractors. Also, Orange and Rockland was unable to respond properly to the numerous down wire conditions that were reported to it. Limited telephone calling capacity at the utility’s call center resulted in some customers being unable to contact the Company to report their service conditions or to obtain information. Orange and Rockland also failed to provide customers localized, estimated restoration times which likely increased the number of customer calls to the Company seeking service restoration information. Consequently, this report contains specific recommendations for Orange and Rockland which are intended to improve its future performance. In the following Chapters, we provide the results of our examination of each utility company’s service restoration performances. Recommendations for improvements are presented, as necessary, to obtain better storm responses in the future. The recommendations presented here are designed to build upon those made in our performance report following Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The recommendations emanating from the Irene and Lee Report are summarized in Attachment 1 to this report. A copy of this report is being sent to the New York utility companies by the Director of the Office of Electric, Gas, and Water. All New York electric and gas utilities should review this report and, to the extent they have similar conditions and circumstances, they should implement the recommendations provided here. The companies are expected to implement recommendations applicable to their operations by no later than 30 days from the issuance of this Report. The Companies should report to Staff within 30 days on their progress in implementing the recommendations and every three months thereafter, until such time as Staff determines implementation is complete and reporting is no longer necessary. In addition, Staff expects each progress report to include the status of implementing the Company’s own recommendations identified in their self-assessments. -3-
HURRCANE IRENE AND TROPICAL STORM LEE – OUTSTANDING IMPROVEMENT OPPORTUNITIES3
The October 2011 storm occurred only about a month and a half after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee struck New York State. When the October storm hit, the utility companies encountered many of the same issues they had experienced during the earlier storms. This is largely due to the close timing of the three storms. When the October storm began, the utilities were in the process of finalizing their Irene and Lee self-assessment reports for submission to Staff.4 Thus, the utilities had initially begun to identify their planned improvements from their assessments of the performance during Irene and Lee storms. In October, many of the identified improvements were only able to be implemented in a provisional or partial manner—or not at all given the short time and limited opportunity between the initial identification of improvements and the implementation of the resolutions. Without sufficient time to implement the self-identified improvements drawn from Irene and Lee, the earlier identified concerns remained matters of concern for the October snowstorm. Thus, Staff expects the corrective actions identified for Irene and Lee to also apply to the October storm.
The Staff report addressing Irene and Lee describes, in detail, the utility companies’ stormrelated functions. It also describes the Department’s overall responsibility to review the adequacy of the utility companies’ emergency plans, their storm preparations, storm responses and service restoration efforts. Given the comprehensive description of these functions contained in the Irene and Lee Report, this report does not reiterate that information that is conveniently available in our companion report. This report concentrates on the analysis of the utility performances for the October storm and only briefly refers to the information available to the reader in the Irene and Lee Report. The utilities were granted filing extensions for the Irene and Lee self-assessments to allow them to remain focused on their recovery efforts for the October snowstorm.
Staff’s investigation of the companies’ performances during Irene and Lee culminated in a comprehensive report containing 30 recommendations. Nearly all the recommendations applicable to the electric utilities also apply to their performances for the October storm.5 The successful implementation of the recommendations contained in the Irene and Lee Report will also resolve the similar concerns that were identified in connection with the October storm. Attachment 1 to this report contains the recommendations first generated by our review of Irene and Lee that apply equally to our review of the October 2011 storm.
Case 11-M-0481 – In the Matter of the Outages Caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. In the report, Staff made recommendations for enhancing communications, as well as improving the restoration of electric, gas, and telecommunications services.
The October 2011 Northeaster was the third major storm to hit our region in the span of three months. This storm hit many of the areas that were impacted earlier by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee—in some locations causing more tree damage and power outages than did the prior storms. This storm was an unusually early snowfall for October. It produced more than 20 inches of heavy, wet snow accumulations in some areas. In at least 20 cities, the snowfall broke daily and monthly records. Wind gusts, in excess of 30 miles an hour, were common throughout southeastern New York. These conditions, combined with substantial amounts of foliage still in place, produced widespread tree damage. Significant amounts of tree damage, and associated damage to the electric infrastructure, occurred across the southeastern region of New York, including locations south and east of the I-88 corridor that runs from Schenectady to Binghamton. As the storm progressed, customer interruptions climbed on Saturday evening and overnight into Sunday morning. In all, approximately 400,000 New York State customers lost their electric service. Some areas sustained more damage from the Northeaster than they had from Hurricane Irene. Out-of-state line crews were brought in both before and after the storm to help with the restoration. To complete the service restorations following this storm took about a week; the restorations progressed steadily during this period. As shown in Figure 1, below, fifty percent of customers statewide had their service restored within three days; ninety percent had their service restored within five days.
Figure 1: Customer Outages Statewide
The utility companies had restoration crews standing ready for the October snowstorm’s arrival. On Saturday, October 29, over 360 crews were available; over half of the crews were provided by contractors and mutual assistance programs. By Monday, October 31, over 1,000 line, tree and service crews were working to restore electric service to customers. The companies retained the contractors who were working in their service territories, and they obtained additional contractor crews. The utilities reached out to other utility companies in New York and in states in the MidAtlantic and New England regions, using their established mutual assistance groups. With more than three million customers in the Northeast affected by this storm, available line crews were in short supply as many utilities throughout the region were also in need of mutual assistance support. Nevertheless, the New York utilities were able to acquire the crews they needed to mount an effective restoration, with the single exception of Orange and Rockland whose circumstances are discussed below. All the companies had sufficient materials and equipment for their service restoration efforts. The companies’ damage assessors were available on Saturday. But -7-
given the storm’s timing, duration, and the road conditions, full-scale damage assessments could not begin until daybreak Sunday. Con Edison, Central Hudson, and Orange and Rockland supplemented their damage assessment personnel by using contractors; NYSEG supplemented its damage assessment force using assessors from its unaffected Divisions, including personnel provided by its sister company, Rochester Gas and Electric. As the restoration efforts progressed, the companies relocated their damage assessors and sent them to heavily-damaged areas to assist in the assessments and circuit sweeps at those locations. All the companies performed adequate damage assessments. In total, over 15,800 down wires were reported for the October storm— more than half of the down wires occurred in Orange and Rockland’s service area. As part of our review, we identified that the process of responding to down wire reports is not as detailed and organized as it could be. Most notable is that the restoration priority tends to be based on information provided at the time of the down wire report, which may be limited in facts, and does methodically account for known information based on its location. As a result, we recommend that all utilities’ Emergency Plans should identify the priority for energized wires during an active storm and the priorities for repair work post storm, taking into account the potential for public harm (including, for example, population density, pedestrian access, public uses of an area, and the proximity of the electric facilities to public facilities such as schools) and the safety of utility employees. We also determined that companies should be more aggressive when planning for the number of wire guards, particularly when circumstances promote the likelihood of downed wires, as was the case during Hurricane Irene. As part of the Irene and Lee Report, Staff recommends that the utilities better defined staffing requirements for wire guards and identify means to obtain supplemental wire guards to be used in emergencies in order to meet the staffing requirements. These recommendations also
apply to this snowstorm and should help improve the overall response to down wires going forward. During the event, the companies communicated with news reporters, the media, elected officials, and emergency response organizations. The utilities engaged in proactive media efforts by issuing multiple press releases daily and by posting available information on their websites. The utility press releases contained pertinent information on the outage numbers, crew counts, the estimated times of restoration (ETRs), the locations for dry ice and bottled water distributions, emergency contact numbers, and they provided safety precautions about downed wires.6 We found that the utilities, except for Orange and Rockland, maintained effective communications with their customers. Although Orange and Rockland did engage in similar outreach activities as described above, the lack of detailed information, particularly regional and localized ETRs, reduced the effectiveness of this effort in meeting customer needs. About 473,000 pounds of dry ice was distributed following the storm. In addition to distributing dry ice to its own customers, NYSEG supplied dry ice and bottled water to others for distribution in Dutchess, Putnam, and Westchester County. Con Edison was challenged in its efforts to secure adequate quantities of dry ice, as dry ice was in short supply due to high demands from all areas affected. The Company resorted to distributing ordinary, wet ice to customers in addition to providing dry ice. In the Irene and Lee Report, Staff has recommended that the utilities identify additional dry ice suppliers. That recommendation applies as well to the circumstances of the October storm. In general, our investigation found that the utilities maintained proper contacts with critical care facilities and with customers who depend on life support
The utilities also regularly provide bill inserts to customers that include information on how to report the loss of power; how to obtain updates during storms; and, the dangers presented by downed wires and how to safely avoid the wires.
equipment (LSE customers). For example, Con Edison monitored the status of facilityspecific emergency generation and provided the three critical care facilities assistance following the snowstorm to keep their emergency generators operational until their services were restored. As discussed below, NYSEG did not initiate the required prestorm calls, as defined in its procedures, to LSE customers who were on the identified storm path. Staff found that Central Hudson was unable to reach three LSE customers, either by phone or by field visits. The Company properly sought the assistance of municipal emergency services as a means to contact the unreachable customers. Central Hudson, however, failed to ascertain whether the emergency services actually made such contact. The Irene and Lee Report contains a recommendation to the utilities that they address this concern by using follow-up efforts to verify contacts made by emergency services during storms.
ORANGE AND ROCKLAND
The peak number of customers without electric service in Orange and Rockland’s service territory was 71,141, or 33% companywide. Orange and Rockland was hit hardest in its Eastern and Central Divisions, with 43% and 30% of the customers in these divisions without electric service at peak, respectively. Orange and Rockland performed poorly in acquiring restoration crews. The Company had 39 line crews and 16 tree crews ready to perform restoration on Saturday, October 29. While the number of crews it had at the onset of the storm was comparable to the other utilities, Orange and Rockland failed to adequately supplement the initial crew levels to support the restoration effort given the amount of damage experienced and the number of down wires reported.
The Company added to its crews, and brought in some contractor and mutual aid crews, to assist in the restoration effort on Sunday and it continued to acquire crews over the next five days. On Monday, October 31, the Company had 121 line crews (89 of which were provided by contractors and mutual aid), 65 tree crews, and 78 service crews. While the majority of crews were assigned to work in the hard hit Eastern Division, this workforce level was still insufficient given the storm impact in the service area. Crew levels peaked on Friday, November 4 when Orange and Rockland had 374 line, 80 tree, and 154 service crews working to restore service. The Company completed restoration on Sunday, November 6. We recommend that Orange and Rockland develop more proactive protocols and procedures for seeking external contractor and mutual aid crews, from within and outside the State, to ensure that sufficient crews are requested and acquired before and during emergency response efforts. The protocols should be incorporated into the Company’s Emergency Plan and contain appropriate actions for the conditions applicable to each of the three storm event classifications. Orange and Rockland received reports of over 8,100 down wire incidents during the course of the storm—more than half the total number of incidents statewide. To address the large volume of down wires and to mitigate public safety concerns, the Company increased the number of site safety personnel it had in the field.7 Our review indicates that Orange and Rockland had 70 site safety personnel available—33 were assigned to the Eastern Division, 13 to the Central Division, and 12 to the Western Division. In addition, Orange and Rockland employed 76 contractors to assist it in the site safety work. At peak, the total number of site safety personnel working was 102.
Site safety personnel are used to guard hazardous conditions until crews are available to perform repairs or make the area safe. Therefore, workforce levels provided are in addition to personnel used when establishing crew counts.
Post storm assessments indicate there were over 5,000 down wire reports received from emergency responders and from customers during the first three days. Approximately 390 of the reports were addressed by the Company’s site safety group. Despite the Company’s efforts to supplement its workforce, the number of down wire reports it received overwhelmed the Company and the site safety personnel available. Orange and Rockland’s Emergency Plan does not indicate a minimum staffing level for the site safety group. It merely states that the site safety group should be mobilized and adjusted accordingly. As recommended in the Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee Report, the Company needs to establish minimum staffing levels for its site safety personnel—with greater staffing provided for those situations that are likely to cause a high volume of down wires. To increase its workforce resources, Orange and Rockland is now establishing standard contract terms and conditions with its contractors for site safety services. This is a positive step in view of the size of the Company. We also recommend that Orange and Rockland should continue to identify and train additional in-house personnel to serve as wire guards. Orange and Rockland uses an outage management system to provide and monitor job assignments for known down wire incidents. “Trouble calls” are generated and updated and this provides a way to assign, track, and report each job. For the October storm, we requested the Company’s data on the number of down wire incidents that were known to be energized during and after the storm. Orange and Rockland could not provide Staff this information with any degree of certainty. Company personnel are dispatched based on all known information. Depending on how a call is received, the Company obtains some information about a down wire when it receives the initial report that allows it to prioritize the response needed. Sometimes an initial report indicates that the down wire is energized; however, the system used does not effectively reflect the risk of a situation that should receive a high priority , such as a wire down in a high pedestrian area. Additionally, the -12-
Company’s Emergency Plan does not specify the priority that down, energized wires should receive during an active storm or what priority repair work related to down wires should receive post storm. This is an area that should be improved based on our previous recommendation for all Companies to define how down wires are prioritized for repair. As part of this effort, Orange and Rockland should also improve the communication process between its site safety group and crew dispatching group to ensure all information regarding a down line is readily known. Orange and Rockland was unable to establish proper ETR’s for this event. The Company received initial damage assessment reports on the evening of October 30 that it used to establish its global ETR for day’s end Wednesday, November 2. However, due to the substantial tree damage, numerous downed wires and the large number of repairs required, Orange and Rockland had underestimated the restoration effort and was unable to meet this initial projection. As a result, on Tuesday, November 1, the Company extended its global ETR to day’s end November 3. The modified global ETR was achieved for over 90% of the customers affected. Orange and Rockland did not develop its ETRs on a regional or local basis for this storm. This is a significant concern to Staff where the Company used the same approach following Hurricane Irene. This approach and omission fails to adequately inform the public and it overstates the damage and service restoration efforts for some areas. By not providing local ETRs, the Company promoted the perception that it was not restoring services effectively and customers likely placed more calls to the Company to obtain specific information applicable to their individual service interruption. It is common for customer frustration to be exacerbated when they need to contact multiple sources to obtain information that should be readily available. As a result, we recommend that Orange and Rockland develop and provide to Staff a protocol for
CASE 11-M-0595 developing and providing customers localized ETRs for future storm events.8 The Company should also report to Staff on how it plans to ensure the protocol is followed properly and it should clearly identify personnel within the organizations that are responsible for its execution. Orange and Rockland’s slow initial response, and its limited ability to address down lines, resulted in substantial frustration for customers and local public officials. The comments the Department received during the course of this investigation, the numerous news reports and media articles we have seen, and the impassioned comments made at a public statement hearing held for Orange and Rockland’s recent rate case, all demonstrate the dissatisfaction that customers experienced with the Company’s performance during the October storm. A review of the Company’s call center performance data indicates that customers had difficulty reaching customer service agents to obtain information. We found that only about 75% of the calls queued for agents were answered.9 As had occurred during Hurricane Irene, the telephone call volumes Orange and Rockland received during the October storm exceeded the Company’s capabilities. This resulted in some customers being unable to contact a live agent at the Company. Staff observed and noted this deficiency in its Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee Report, which contains a recommendation for improved call center capabilities. Orange and Rockland reported to us that it has taken steps to improve its call center’s capabilities early in 2012 and has additional improvements planned for the future. So far, the improvements include: increased inbound call capabilities (doubling the number of telephone circuits since Hurricane Irene); contracting with Twenty First Century Communications to process the overflow of storm calls; sending overflow calls
A similar recommendation is also included in the Irene and Lee Report. Orange and Rockland had a 96% overall answer rate, which includes calls answered by customer agents and calls handled by the Interactive Voice Response System.
to Con Edison for handling by their representative who have been specifically trained by Orange and Rockland’s staff; and, an improved Interactive Voice Response System that interfaces with the Company’s Outage Management System to provide customers accurate, up-to-the-minute storm information. Orange and Rockland states that additional call center enhancements will be forthcoming during the second half of 2012, followed by a complete redesign of its call center technology by mid-2014. While these steps move in the right direction, we recommend that the Company provide Staff updates providing the status of the call center improvements and system testing that has been performed. After the 30 day reporting requirement, the updates should continue quarterly until the Company’s call center capabilities are demonstrated to be sufficient to handle a large scale event. Finally, the information Orange and Rockland provided Staff at the time of the storm did not accurately state the crew levels the Company possessed. The Company pointed to inconsistencies in the methods it used to record this information as a basis for its reporting errors. To manage its resources effectively, a utility must know the number of crews that are arriving so it can plan their work in advance and arrange for such logistics as hotel rooms and meals. Staff recommends that Orange and Rockland improve its methods of managing crew information and develop a formal process to report accurately its crewing status during an event. The Company has indicated to us that it is developing a standardized form to collect all necessary information regarding incoming crews. This will help in this regard and it can also assist in the development of ETRs.
NEW YORK STATE ELECTRIC AND GAS
NYSEG experienced outages in four of its Division. At peak, 86,672 customers (10% of the total customers served by NYSEG) were without electric service. -15-
The majority of the electric service outages occurred in the Brewster Division where, at peak, 73,605 customers (87% of the Division) experienced a loss of service. On October 31, or two days after the storm, NYSEG completed its service restorations to approximately 13,000 customers who were affected by the storm in the Liberty and Mechanicville Divisions. On Saturday, November 5, with the completion of the service restorations in the Brewster Division, all customers were restored to service. NYSEG was prepared for the storm with 105 line crews and 58 tree crews ready to work on Saturday, October 29. Nearly half of the line crews were Company personnel either stationed locally or brought into the area from other regions that were unaffected by the storm. NYSEG quickly ramped up its number of crews and it had 205 line crews and 70 tree crews working by October 30, the first day after the storm. By Monday, October 31, NYSEG had over 350 crews at work in the Brewster Division. NYSEG’s performance during this storm event was a great improvement over some past performances where supplemental crews were slower to arrive. There were 4,097 down wires in NYSEG’s Brewster Division. A large number of the circuits affected by the storm were automatically shut down by protective devices. Of the 4,097 down wires reported, 3,916 were on circuits that were confirmed to be locked out, which eliminated the immediate dangers associated with these down wires. As a result, 70 wire guards were assigned in the Brewster Division to guard the other 181 down wire locations until they could be made safe. Of the 70 wire guards used in the Brewster Division, only 17 were local; the remaining guards were brought in from other Division. While NYSEG properly used employees from its unaffected areas to serve as wire guards, a more widespread storm may limits its ability to share its personnel. Also, the number of wire guards available may not be sufficient for future storms if there are less circuit lockouts and more energized down wires situations. Therefore, we recommend that NYSEG provide and train more personnel to serve as wire guards for future storms. The training of more -16-
local employees to serve as wire guards in the Brewster, Lancaster, Liberty, and Oneonta Divisions would also help to minimize the number of wire guards that may need to be imported during future storms. NYSEG performed a circuit-by-circuit analysis throughout its service territory, as specified by its Emergency Plan. This work was the basis for the global ETR it established. No substantial delays occurred in the conveyance of damage assessment information to NYSEG’s operations and command centers. Each Division provided its initial ETRs using the most significant damage reported on a circuit. We confirmed that NYSEG’s initial global ETR was accurate. It remained accurate during the course of the storm without any need for further modifications or updating. The Company issued ETRs for the Liberty and Mechanicville Divisions on Monday morning (October 31). At that time, only 443 customer outages remained in both Divisions and service was fully restored later that day. Staff does not believe that NYSEG provided timely regional ETRs for these Divisions that were useful or beneficial to most customers affected. The Company should strive to issue ETRs earlier during an event. We recommend that NYSEG provide a report to Staff on the actions it will take, and verification process it will use, to ensure that all ETRs will be issued in a timely manner. Our investigation also reviewed NYSEG’s communication activities and and found that the Company maintained adequate contacts with public officials and emergency management personnel, including liaison staff assignments to the emergency centers located in Dutchess, Putnam, and Westchester County and to individual towns, as needed. The Company performed better, in this instance, than it had during Hurricane Irene. However, NYSEG did not adhere to its procedures requiring it to initiate pre-storm calls to LSE customers on the storm’s path. According to the Company, it began reaching out to 120 LSE customers without power on October 30, 2011. It made over 350 calls between October 29 and November 5 to check on the LSE -17-
customers; it conducted field visits to investigate when telecommunication could not be established. While the Company acted properly following the storm, NYSEG should have provided pre-storm notifications and it should review its storm preparation procedures and provide a report to Staff on the steps it will take to help ensure that all such steps are completed in the future.
Central Hudson sustained the largest number of customer outages during this storm. At the peak, 147,958 customers (49% of the total customers served) were without service. Several of Central Hudson’s Divisions sustained severe damage. The Fishkill Division experienced a 74% loss of electric service to customers; 65% of the customers in the Poughkeepsie and Newburgh Divisions were without service. Despite such large numbers of customers without service, Central Hudson was able to restore service quickly. It was the first of the four utilities to complete its service restoration efforts. Central Hudson was ready for the storm on Saturday, October 29, with 56 line crews, 37 tree crews, and 12 service crews. It acquired more crews as the service restoration efforts progressed. By Monday, October 31, Central Hudson had 150 line crews (100 provided by contractors and mutual assistance), 88 tree crews, and 15 service crews. Central Hudson was able to restore service to all customers by Friday, November 4. Central Hudson reported 1,698 down wires during the October Northeaster. Of this amount, 59% were received the first day of the storm. The Company had 105 site safety personnel available from its various organizations In addition, Central Hudson obtained 10 contractors to supplement its wire guard staff.
The number of down wires during this major storm exceeded the number of wire guards that Central Hudson had available. The Company has since embarked on a project to better manage down wires and to fulfill the need for more wire guards. Central Hudson has an agreement with a local vendor to supply trained and equipped personnel who can respond to reports of down wires. Individuals will be trained to identify the types of electric conductors that are down; others will be trained to guard the public from the down wires. These additional resources will increase Central Hudson’s ability to respond to a greater number of down wires than it is currently able to do. In February 2012, Central Hudson initiated a pilot program that is investigating the use of GIS-based and mobile applications to assist its wire responders. This project uses a software program to prioritize, to dispatch personnel, and to track reports of down wires. Central Hudson is testing this new technology, and the use of GIS and street map data, to group the down wire reports and to eliminate duplicate responses. It hopes to develop a down wire report database that can be quickly updated and accessed by field crews and office personnel. We consider both of these projects encouraging. If successful, they should be evaluated for application throughout its service territory. Central Hudson effectively communicated with local public officials during the storm event. The Company’s first global and regional ETRs were established within a reasonable amount of time and with a reasonable degree of accuracy. As stated in the Company’s report, the ETR process can be improved by obtaining the information learned by the damage assessors and the crew guides as frequently as possible. The Company is pursuing the use of mobile data collectors to allow them to communicate with the central office more often than they did during this snowstorm. The use of technology to aid in the communication of information during a storm is also a recommendation in the Irene and Lee Report and we support this effort. -19-
Con Edison’s service area was the first in the State to be hit by the Northeaster. On Saturday evening, at its peak, 92,616 customers were without service. Of these, 79,355 were located in Westchester where 23% of customers were without service. Con Edison had 27 line crews, 15 tree crews, and 19 service crews ready on Saturday, October 29. By Monday, October 31, the Company had 154 line crews, 76 tree crews, and 120 service crews working to restore electric service to customers. The majority of these crews, over 80%, were located in Westchester. As service to customers in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island was restored, crews were moved to Westchester to support the restoration efforts there. By Wednesday, November 2, Con Edison had nearly 400 crews working in Westchester. On Friday, November 4, service was restored to all customers. During the storm, Con Edison’s records show that it received 1,817 down wires reports. Of this amount, 473 reports were provided by emergency responders, including 911 operators, fire departments, police departments and local public works departments. Damage assessors and tree crews were assigned to verify the reports of down wires and the reports of trees on wires. In anticipation of the expected damage, Con Edison supplemented its site safety group with 139 contractors who were used to respond to the reports of downed wires. The contractors, combined with Con Edison’s more than 350 wire guards, provided adequate safety personnel to guard the 1,817 down wires reported. We are, however, concerned about the Corporate policy for responding to events. For example, Orange and Rockland received more than four times the number of wire down reports when compared to Con Edison. As previously stated, Orange and Rockland used approximately 150 site safety personnel to respond to down wire reports. By contrast, Con Edison’s used nearly 500 site safety personnel to respond. We believe this disparity is something that needs to be reviewed and addressed to ensure that the Companies’ -20-
responses are adequate and generally consistent with each other. Therefore, we recommend that Con Edison and Orange and Rockland provide a report to Staff identifying corporate level policies that address Staff’s concerns. While our example highlighted site safety, these policies should be applicable to all aspects of restoration, including crewing, damage assessment, and communication functions. Many of the Company’s site safety personnel are its meter readers who were assigned to stand guard until a down wire condition is made safe or is repaired. Con Edison’s post-storm evaluation revealed that many of the meter readers were guarding non-company wires that did not present a threat to the public. The meter readers were unable to identify and differentiate telephone and cable wires that were not life threatening. In these instances, the wire guards could have been better used and been deployed to locations where the down wires were known to be the electrical wires owned by Con Edison. The Company recognizes this as a deficiency and as an opportunity for improvement. Con Edison will provide its personnel training to identify electric wires. In the future, it will use specially trained employees to support the site safety personnel. It will also deploy damage assessors with the site safety personnel. Con Edison’s coordination efforts enabled the Company to establish global, regional, and local ETRs in a timely manner. Con Edison’s integrated Trouble Analysis Units are located in each region of its service territory and they periodically review and update the regional and local ETRs. The ETRs are made available to the public by various means, including the use of state and local government agencies, email, websites, and conference calls. Con Edison continuously monitored its local outage information to maintain the accuracy of its global and regional ETRs. Overall, the Company provided reasonably well developed and accurate local, regional and global ETRs.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The October storm occurred approximately a month and a half after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The electric utility companies encountered many of the same issues in all three storms because of their close proximity to one another. Not surprisingly, our investigation found that several of the issues identified in the October snowstorm also existed during the Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee restoration. As a result, the recommendations presented here build upon those made by Staff in the performance report we provided following Irene and Lee. Except for Orange and Rockland, we did not find that the utilities had difficulties acquiring the crews needed to perform service restorations. Nor did the utilities (except for Orange and Rockland) encounter difficulties communicating with the customers, the media, and public officials via traditional communications channels. We found that NYSEG should have issued estimated restoration times earlier in its less affected Divisions; it needs to take additional steps to ensure LSE customers are contacted prior to a storm; and, the Company should train additional personnel to serve as wire guards in certain Divisions. Orange and Rockland was overwhelmed by the damage caused during the October storm. We found that it was slow to supplement its crewing levels and it was unable to respond properly to the numerous down wire conditions reported to it. As a result of the limited capacity of the Company’s call center, customers were unable to contact the Company to report their service conditions or to obtain information. Orange and Rockland also failed to provide localized estimated restoration times, which added to customer calls to the Company to obtain information specific to them. This Report presents our recommendations for corrective actions, as summarized below. The recommendations are designed and intended to improve the utilities’ future storm responses. This Report will be provided to all New York utilities -22-
for them to review and determine whether they have similar conditions that warrant their attention. To the extent that they do, they too should implement improvements to address future storms adequately. A copy of this Report is being sent to all the major electric utility companies by the Director of the Office of Electric, Gas, and Water. They are expected to implement all recommendations, as appropriate, no later than 60 days from their receipt of the Report. Staff Recommendations: All utilities should define in its Emergency Plan how down energized wires are to be prioritized during an active storm and in what priority repair work related to down energized wires should be performed post storm, taking into account the potential for public harm (including for example, the population density of the area, the level of pedestrian access and use of the area, and the proximity of facilities such as schools) and the safety of utility employees. Orange and Rockland should develop more proactive protocols and procedures for seeking external, contractor, and mutual aid crews from inside and outside of the State to ensure that crews are requested and acquired prior to and during emergency response efforts. The protocols should reflect appropriate actions based on conditions applicable to each of the three storm event classifications described in its Emergency Plan and be provided to Staff. Orange and Rockland should provide quarterly updates regarding all call center improvements and system testing performed. These updates will continue until Staff is satisfied with the Company’s call center capabilities. Orange and Rockland should develop and provide to Staff a protocol on how it will develop localized ETR on a forward going basis. Orange and Rockland should continue to identify and train additional in-house personnel to serve as wire guards. The Company should provide Staff a report indicating the number of new personnel identified, training schedules, and forecasted number of wire guards available by month through December 31, 2013. Orange and Rockland should develop a formal process to manage crew information such that it will be able to accurately report its crewing status during an event.
CASE 11-M-0595 Orange and Rockland should also improve the communication process between its site safety group and crew dispatching group to ensure all information regarding a down line is readily known. NYSEG should strive to issue regional and local ETRs earlier during an event. The Company should provide Staff a report on the actions and verification processes it will be taking to ensure the ETRs will be issued in a timelier manner. NYSEG should identify and train personnel in the Brewster, Lancaster, Liberty, and Oneonta Divisions to serve as wire guards during future storms. The Company should provide Staff a report indicating the number of new personnel identified, training schedules, and forecasted number of wire guards available by month through December 31, 2013. NYSEG should review its storm preparation procedures and provide a report to Staff on steps it will take to help ensure that pre-storm calls to LSE customers are completed in the future. Con Edison and Orange and Rockland should provide a report to Staff identifying corporate level policies that ensure that the Companies’ responses are adequate and generally consistent with each other. Central Hudson should continue to investigate the use of GIS-based and mobile applications to assist in optimizing the response of wire responders and should be evaluated throughout its entire service territory to determine the applicability.
ATTACHMENT 1 – HURRICANE IRENE RECOMMENDATIONS
The following is a summary of the recommendations included in the Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee Report that apply to the electric utilities.
COMMUNICATIONS Utility Call Centers Orange and Rockland should provide to Staff a report outlining the steps it will take to improve overall call center technology and performance during storms. Media and Customer Communications Central Hudson and NYSEG should report on their enhancements for the provision of ETRs and their presentation on website maps. NYSEG should provide a local presence in severely impacted areas and identify alternative means to improve communication with county offices. Communications with Public Officials All utilities should extend invitations to local and state elected officials representing districts in their service territories to be included on their municipal call lists. Alternative Communication Technologies All utilities should investigate ways to continue to expand the use of newer technologies to communicate with customers during outages (i.e., email, text messaging, and social media) and report their findings to Staff.
ELECTRIC SERVICE Restoration Orange and Rockland’s emergency plan should formally incorporate the Corporate Coastal Storm Plan. The electric utilities should formalize agreements with property owners to temporarily stage crews, materials, and equipment during restoration at strategic locations that would be useful for future restoration efforts. Each electric company should develop procedures relating to the use of contracted damage assessors, including training requirements. Their Emergency Plans should identify when these procedures would be used. National Grid and Con Edison should investigate the use of mobile data collection for damage assessment by company and contracted personnel and report their finding to Staff. Each electric utility should expand its emergency plan to include procedures for obtaining crews from distant states. The emergency plans should include contact information for utilities, contractors, and mutual assistance groups and acknowledge travel and rest time restrictions before the crews can be deployed into the field. All electric utilities should better define minimum staffing requirements for the number of wire guards to be used in their emergency plans. The requirements should also identify alternate staffing levels when conditions, such as a hurricane, will likely cause an increase in the number of down wires. All electric utilities should modify their Emergency Plans to identify the means to obtain supplemental wire guards through contractors during or prior to an emergency when employees may not be available to serve as guards because they are needed for alternate functions. All electric utilities should modify their Emergency Plans to define when it would be appropriate to use municipal field liaisons or a similar process to facilitate the removal of hazardous conditions.
CASE 11-M-0595 NYSEG should examine its Company as a whole to establish an optimal crew deployment to achieve restoration for the largest number of customers in the least amount of time. As the restoration progresses, Orange and Rockland and NYSEG should revise their practices to provide ETRs that are different from the global projection for regional sections of their territories, which may be smaller than their divisions, and continue to refine the ETRs until all localities have their own ETRs. All electric utilities should continue to work with referral entities to strengthen follow-up processes and to ensure that feedback regarding LSE customers that have been referred for contact assistance are obtained and recorded. To ensure better availability of dry ice in future events, all electric utilities should review their procurement procedures and identify additional contractors, further inland, who can provide dry ice in the event of a storm impacting the East Coast. Reporting Guidelines for writing self-assessment reports should be developed through a collaborative process including Staff and the electric utilities to ensure future reports contain all appropriate information and provide a comprehensive discussion of key decisions and actions taken. The resulting guidelines shall apply to all electric utilities. All electric utilities should provide comprehensive reports that discuss all aspects of the restoration when required to submit storm updates. System Reliability and Resiliency All electric companies should review facilities that are susceptible to outside factors, such as flooding, excessive tree damage, or limited access, to determine whether reasonable infrastructure improvement or increased maintenance could be made to reduce the customer impact of a storm or facilitate the ability of the utility to restore service.
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