By Kevin Kelley
Mayor Eileen Patton plans to use all of her municipality’s communication channels to get this message out to residents: Each resident experiencing a power outage should report it as soon as possible to The Illuminating Company (CEI), even if all the lights on the street are out.
The message is being reinforced following the experience of Superstorm Sandy, in which some residents lost power for several days.
Calling CEI’s outage hotline at 1-888-LIGHTSS (1-888-544-4877) is the best way of reporting the loss of electricity, Patton said.
Karen Kirsh, an external affairs manager at First Energy, CEI’s parent company, said two reasons exist for needing all residents to report outages.
First, she said, the grid system makes predictions about what equipment has been affected based on the number and location of the calls.
“A few calls concentrated in a confined area may indicate a fuse or transformer,” Kirsh told West Life. “Hundreds of calls in a broader area may indicate an entire circuit off. Thousands of calls across multiple cities may indicate a substation problem. We can better focus our crews attention and restore power more quickly based on that information.”
Secondly, multiple areas of a single circuit can suffer outages during a storm, but some may be overlooked if not reported.
“If all residents in a concentrated area do not call in the outages, crews would not be directed to look for damage in that area, delaying restoration,” Kirsh explained. “In a multiple-day event, FirstEnergy often receives calls three or four days into the storm inquiring when power will be restored, when it had never been reported out.”
Quicker response to power outages and communication were two of the big topics of a Nov. 14 meeting between Patton and CEI President John E. Skory at Fairview Park City Hall. Rocky River Mayor Pam Bobst and Bay Village Mayor Debbie Sutherland also attended.
“We made it very clear to (CEI officials) how difficult this was for our residents,” Patton said.
According to Patton, Skory agreed to implement new enhanced emergency response procedures in which CEI will assign a mobile crew to each city that will stay in contact with that city’s mayor. A strong effort will be made to open road closures caused by downed power lines quickly, with the Ohio National Guard called on to watch live electrical wire for residents’ safety, she added.
Efforts will be made to improve communications among CEI, municipalities and customers, the mayor added. CEI agreed to send a letter to residents that addresses Sandy’s effects and acknowledges the response of local police and fire departments, the mayor reported. During future outages, city leaders want scheduled conference calls directly with Skory, Patton said. FirstEnergy’s website should be updated with current information during outages, she added.
In the aftermath of Sandy, a CEI employee reportedly told a resident that Patton had agreed to CEI’s estimated timetable that some customers would not have power restored until nearly a week after the storm hit. Patton made clear she did not give her consent to such a timetable.