BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – The format of this week’s Berkeley Heights 'Here and Now' was turned on its head this week. Mayor Bob Woodruff reviewed what happened in the township following Storm Quinn and its predecessor Storm Riley, complete with statistics. He then asked a representative of JCP&L questions about the utility’s response, and how it was managed.
More than 50 residents turned out prepared to ask JCP&L Area Manager Rob Walton questions about the utility’s response and to offer a few ideas on how the utility and, in some cases, the township could be better prepared and more responsive to future the power outages – most of which were caused by downed trees and branches.
Woodruff first discussed the township DPW’s role in clearing streets, the way information was communicated to residents, and his and the Police and Fire chiefs’ communications with Walton during the storm.
Among the things residents learned from Walton are that Reilly, which hit on March 2, mostly in the western part of the state, and Quinn, which hit on March 7, in the north-eastern part of the state, each caused about 250,000 customers to lose power. A total of 537,000 customers were without power over that time frame.
There were 1,719 roads closed, 51 miles of wire were replaced; 750 poles down; 5,400 reports fallen trees; 1,900 spans of primary and 1,200 spans of secondary wire were impacted.
Walton also provided the following information:
· His responsibilities in the 35 communities in four counties, he serves as area manager.
· What workers were doing when the storm hit on Wednesday.
· The utility’s priorities on the first day of the storm and the second.
· The current regulations on trimming trees, what would be better practices.
· Who is responsible for the wires from the pole to the house.
· How the five substations in Berkeley Heights, fared during the storm and how residents were impacted.
· What to do when encountering a live wire.
· What residents should do when they are out of power – call 1-888-LIGHTSS.
· How to help the utility discover there are smaller outages within larger ones.
· How JCP&L prioritizes restoring power customers – First critical facilities, then the largest outage to the smallest.
Questions from residents included:
· Why are there so many more outages now than there were before Irene?
· Were out-of-state crews mobilized before the storm?
· Where is all the investment in infrastructure by First Energy?
· Is JCP&L ready for two storms that are being tracked for later this week?
· Why not move all wires underground?
· Why doesn’t someone cut down tall trees in the right of way so they don’t fall on wires?
· Why were estimates of restoration so inaccurate and will that be fixed?
· Why didn’t the township include members of the New Providence Amateur Radio Club Emergency Response Team who live in Berkeley Heights in the Office Emergency Management?
· How will JCP&L improve service in areas that suffer routine and extended power outages?