Governor Dannel P. Malloy today joined Witt Associates Vice President Charles Fisher to discuss his firm’s report on how Connecticut’s public utility companies and the state handled power restoration following the October Nor’easter. The report, which was completed on an expedited timeline, details a number of key findings and recommendations that will allow the utility companies to be better prepared for weathering the next storm. The report also points out possible improvements for state and municipal governments, including the need for better communication systems between emergency management personnel and public utilities.
“This was an unprecedented storm that caused real hardship for many of our residents,” said Governor Malloy. “But if something good came out of it, it’s that it’s giving us the chance to put in place an unprecedented level of response should it be necessary in the future. Thanks to Witt Associates, we have a report that will help our public utilities and state government understand what went wrong, why it went wrong, and how to fix it. And this is just the first step – what we need to do in the short term to get ready for the winter ahead. I am still looking forward to the long term plan the Two Storm Panel will ultimately produce, as well as to a more detailed follow-up report from an outside consultant.”
“Our expert expedited evaluation of this unprecedented event revealed significant shortcomings in preparedness, communications and public/private sector cooperation,” said Charlie Fisher, Vice President Preparedness Operations, Witt Associates. “Based on our findings and past experience, we believe, if implemented, the 27 recommendations for improvement will build a strong foundation allowing Connecticut communities to recover from such events in a more expedited and cooperative process.”
Governor Malloy said Witt’s report outlined three main areas of concern regarding CL&P: Planning, response and communication during the unprecedented storm. According to the report:
- CL&P was not prepared for an event of this size. The worst-case scenario in the company’s emergency response plan considered outages over 100,000 customers, or less than 10 percent of their total customer base. At peak, 809,097 customers – about two-thirds of its base – lost power as a result of the October snowstorm.
- CL&P did not lean forward by pre-staging adequate restoration resources in advance of the October 29 snowstorm; this delayed the recovery effort in the first days.
- CL&P developed an internal stretch goal to restore power to 99 percent of all customers by Sunday, Nov. 6, even though they appeared to know it was more likely that they wouldn’t hit that goal until Wednesday, Nov. 9. Without vetting internally, the company announced this date as a public performance commitment. This announcement, and a subsequent commitment to restore 99 percent of all customers in each of 149 municipalities by Nov. 6, unnecessarily contributed to community angst and increased customer frustration and challenges for municipal governments.
The report also points out that “public sector emergency response planning at the state and local levels does not adequately focus on actions needed in a significant power outage and assignment of responsibilities in mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery in utility disruption events. State and local plans call for reports from power companies but do not address multi-agency actions or coordination needed to address energy disruption.”
As a result of this finding, Governor Malloy has asked the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) to review the plans currently in place at the state and municipal levels, with an eye toward creating a “master plan” that would lay out how the state should work with municipalities and the utilities should an event like this occur again.
“We have plans in place at the state and municipal levels, but there isn’t one, centralized master plan that shows how state government should interact amongst its own agencies, and how the state should coordinate its own activities with those of the utilities and municipal governments,” added Governor Malloy. “It’s a fair point. Pulling together that plan from what we have in various places is what I’m asking our State Director of Emergency Management Bill Hackett to do.”
While the Witt report primarily concentrated on Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P), Governor Malloy said he believes United Illuminating (UI) should “glean what it can” from the report to improve its disaster preparedness plans.
“The primary objective of the review was to identify opportunities for improvement going forward,” Fisher added. “While it is our desire to be helpful in this review, it is very important to recognize that there were millions of successful actions taken by utility, local and state government personnel to clear the roads and restore power for individual citizens; their schools, businesses, and communities should be commended. In addition, we appreciate the cooperation of state, local, utility, and labor officials which made this expedited review meaningful and possible.”
After the announcement, Fisher was scheduled to present his findings to the Two Storm Panel, the working group Governor Dannel P. Malloy created to review the preparedness, response and recovery efforts of Tropical Storm Irene and the October Nor’easter. It has met six times since it was initially created by Governor Malloy in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene. The eight-member group will ultimately present a set of recommendations to Governor Malloy on how those efforts can be improved.