Tdworld 1432 William Quinlan

A Community Responds to Sandy

March 1, 2013
Superstorm Sandy was the largest, most intense storm to make landfall in the Northeastern United States. The storm caused havoc for 10 million electric

Superstorm Sandy was the largest, most intense storm to make landfall in the Northeastern United States. The storm caused havoc for 10 million electric customers from Maryland to Maine — the most in U.S. history. Along the Connecticut shoreline, the storm ripped apart houses, destroyed seawalls, razed beaches and forced the evacuation of thousands of citizens. In some respects, the impact of this natural disaster will eclipse the toll imposed by the Great New England Hurricane of 1938.

Restoring power after a massive storm requires around-the-clock commitment and coordination, as we rebuild our system while navigating around thousands of fallen trees and devastated homes. Some have compared this process to a military operation. With roughly 840,000 customers affected by Sandy, Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) had to set more than 1,700 new poles and replace more than 105 miles (169 km) of wire, the approximate distance from Mystic to Greenwich.

William J. Quinlan is senior vice president of emergency preparedness for the Connecticut Light & Power Co. He is responsible for response to emergencies, including storms and working with state and municipal officials during any type of emergency.

Community Response

As CL&P's senior vice president for emergency preparedness, I want to share with you some of the reasons that Connecticut succeeded in delivering a “community response” to this truly epic natural disaster.

First, the successful operation that took place is a testament to the skills and dedicated efforts of our employees and the more than 9,000 people who were quickly assembled from Connecticut, 25 other states and Canada to support our efforts. CL&P's customers benefited greatly from our ability to bring in personnel and resources from other Northeast Utilities operating companies, including NSTAR, Western Massachusetts Electric and Public Service of New Hampshire.

Second, the results reflect the enhanced coordination among CL&P, many first responders, state and local officials, and other utilities. In that regard, Gov. Dannel Malloy's personal and strong leadership was invaluable. One example of strong cooperation within our communities occurred in Stamford, where, overnight, we turned a newly developed apartment complex into a facility where hundreds of line workers were provided with food and lodging close to the hardest-hit area of our service territory.

Third, given the frequency of severe weather events, our utility has been keenly focused on improving our emergency preparedness. It is important to note that three of the four largest outages in our more than 100-year history have occurred in the last 14 months.

Here are some of the ways CL&P was able to deliver a strong response in the wake of nature's most recent challenge:

  • We executed our own emergency planning drill and participated in the governor's four-day statewide exercise, both of which simulated a catastrophic hurricane.

  • We leveraged strong partnerships with public and private entities to quickly mobilize and pre-position critical resources.

  • We nearly doubled our tree-trimming efforts in 2012 to address thousands of trees that posed a risk to our system.

  • We dramatically enhanced our community liaison program through training and technology to communicate better with towns and cities.

  • We improved communications with customers by telephoning them before and during the storm, holding media briefings daily, participating in briefings with the governor and state agencies, and regularly updating Facebook and Twitter social media sites.

CL&P has long had a major impact on the economic well-being of the state, but nothing is more important to us than the health and well-being of our customers. After restoring power in Connecticut, it was particularly gratifying that CL&P, along with the other Northeast Utilities companies, was able to send many crews to aid people in New York and New Jersey. Our neighbors in the hard-hit tristate area desperately needed us, and we were there to answer the call.

Our customers showed appreciation for our efforts and demonstrated patience and understanding. We appreciate our customers and pledge to continue to improve our planning and execution so that Connecticut is prepared to handle nature's future wrath.

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