Now that the Township is recovering from Tropical Storm Isaias and the power is on in every home in our community, I wanted to take the opportunity to laud our Berkeley Heights Office of Emergency Management for their tireless efforts to get the power back on to our residents, and ensure our safety.
The communication and information coming from JCP&L regarding schedule of work and anticipated restoration dates after Tropical Storm Isaias was lacking, to say the least. Inaccurate information was being deployed to our residents, many streets without power were not recorded in JCP&L’s system, and the Township simply could not get reliable information about outages or restoration times. All the time, temperatures soared to near 100 on several of the outage days, our sewer plant was offline for three days, as was Summit Medical Group.
As of Sunday morning, Aug. 9, we had 341 residents out of power out of 4,900 customers in town; that 341 number had moved little in the few days leading up to Sunday. At that time, 7% of our town was affected, and there were 38 separate outages.
The Township put pressure on JCP&L multiple times a day to give more defined information on what streets will be worked on next as they work to restore power. Unfortunately, the utility company was unable to provide that information. What’s more, when we did get information on what sections of town will be worked on, then communicate it with residents, JCP&L did not always follow through, and our residents were left wondering if they have been forgotten – again. It was maddening, frustrating and quite frankly, unacceptable.
We pushed for:
- Information on exactly how many crews will be in town on any given day
- Information on exactly where those crews will be working and when
- More defined restoration schedule for each crew on each day
- More defined updates on submitted work orders
- And more
Our Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Tony Padovano and Deputy Danny Cuocci worked day and night to try to get JCP&L crews to the locations they needed to be and to get the work done. They provided very specific locations and exact causes of the outages to JCP&L, and checked on work order status repeatedly throughout each day. Working closely with our Berkeley Heights JCP&L representative, on Sunday, our OEM coordinator and deputy personally met out-of-state JCP&L crews and took them to each known outage location to coordinate repairs. Utilizing this method, we were able to get more than 300 residences back online in just 1 day.
Thanks to our residents and spearheaded by our Township Administrator, Liza Viana, who took to social media with their dilemmas, it was the Township who reported to JCP&L that the utility company was having technical difficulties with their online reporting system. Many residents were receiving notifications that their power was restored when in fact they were still dark. When some tried to report their outage again to JCP&L – following protocol – they were unable to because the system was still only recognizing the original outage. Or, residents who diligently reported their outages again came up against other technical difficulties on JCP&L’s site.
Via social media and email, residents were able to communicate their outstanding outages to the Township, who sent the information to our OEM team, who then led the JCP&L team to the source of those outages. We consider this a “crowdsourced power-up BH” campaign, since it was only by residents providing the information that we were able to get power up so quickly once enough crews were in town.
Our DPW wasted no time clearing trees from roads and clearing basins to ensure proper drainage as the rain continued. They are now preparing for post-storm debris cleanup, to ensure our residents get the service they deserve after any storm. In addition, I thank the Communications Committee for helping get the latest JCP&L outage information to our residents, our Police Department for working with our OEM and DPW to ensure the safety of our roadways, and our sewer plant employees – who had to man the plant 24/7 while the emergency generators were running for three days.
The dedication of our OEM team, as well as our Department of Public Works, Police Department, Sewer Department and administration – is something we should all be applauding. Berkeley Heights is so fortunate to have such loyal workers and volunteers who don’t think twice about taking the initiative when it comes to serving our residents. Thank you to all who helped us get through this storm – together.
Thank you, and stay safe and healthy.