While discussing the recovery efforts that Haverford Township has found itself in after the wake of Hurricane Irene, the Haverford Township Commissioners expressed their disappointment with what they saw as PECO’s lack of communications.
During Thursday 10 a.m. morning’s press conference at the commissioner's meeting room at the , 1st Ward Commissioner and Township Vice President Steve D'Emilio, 2nd Ward Commissioner Mario Oliva, Dan Siegel, 4th Ward Commissioner, 7th Ward Commissioner James E. McGarrity and Township Manager Larry Gentile discussed, among other topics, problems they had with PECO.
“There were certainly issues we had with communication with PECO. This is not a reflection on the line workers. There were clear issues of poor communications,” D’Emilio said, adding that it was “unacceptable” of PECO not to respond right away to a call from the township about a live wire that was knocked down from a fallen tree as one example of the issues the township had with the company.
Power to that line was not shut off until 12 hours after it fell, he said.
However, the communications problem between PECO and the township seems to have been resolved, according to Oliva.
“There was a communication breakdown and nobody is denying that. Not PECO, not us, between the first 36 hours of this (storm). But that has been taken care of between PECO and Haverford Township,” he said. “We learned a lesson here. This was a very big storm and it did affect other areas a lot worst than it did us.”
D’Emilio praised Oliva for being able to reach PECO and getting information to township officials and residents.
The storm highlighted the lack of communication between PECO and the township and residents, Siegel said. He continued that he received more than 100 emails from residents who wanted to know why PECO was not communicating with them.
“The difficulty arose from the lack of information and communication (by PECO), Siegel said.
The commissioners were also upset with the coverage by The Philadelphia Inquirer, stating the newspaper did not get the perspective of the commissioners, with D’Emilio telling Patch at the end of the press conference that he spoke with the reporter and claimed the reporter, Alfred Lubrano, stated he did not know how to properly get a hold of them. In replying to an email from Patch, Lubrano said he could not comment on the matter and that the article itsself is the only statement from the newspaper.
PECO has not returned a phone call from Haverford-Havertown Patch seeking comment. Gentile stated that PECO was invited to the press conference but the company stated that it could not attend because it still needed personnel to deal with recovery.
But Gentile did say that as of 9 p.m. Wednesday, about 107 people were without power in Haverford Township.
McGarrity, like the other commissioners, stated they would like to have a meeting with PECO to discuss the communication issues.
During the question-and-answer session, Patch asked the commissioners if they would consider issuing a complaint with the commonwealth’s Public Utility Commission against PECO, as Zoning Hearing Board Chairman Robert Kane he would like to see done against the company for what he saw as the company’s unresponsiveness during Hurricane Irene.
“We’ll like to meet with them first,” was McGarrity’s reply.
The other commissioners were not present at the press conference because of conflicting schedules.
Recovery Efforts and Clean Up
Those at the press conference praised the efforts of township personnel, the Haverford and all the township’s fire companies for their part in helping the residents during and after Hurricane Irene.
D’Emilio also praised Gentile’s preparation skills and establishing an emergency call system.
“Haverford Township responded unbelievably during this storm. Mr. Gentile and his staff were on top of this storm weeks before it hit. … We can’t thank the volunteer fire fighters enough because of what they did, they left their own homes … and pumping out residents’ homes, especially those who lost power and didn’t have electricity to pump their basements out,” D’Emilio said.
Gentile also urged residents to sign up for the township’s Emergency Notification System, where residents can be immediately alerted of weather and storm updates.
D’Emilio cited the Haverford Township Hurricane Response Fact Sheet for the following emergency response statistics:
- Police responses—Haverford Township Police responded to 237 events for numerous requests for assistance.
- Fire responses—Haverford Township Fire Departments responded to 95 calls relating to fires, fire alarms, electrical wires and general calls of service.
- Paramedic and EMS—Haverford Paramedics, Llanerch and Manoa Ambulances responded to 25 medical emergencies.
- Police/Fire and EMS—Responded to two water rescues.
During a question-and-answer session Deputy Police Chief John Viola gave residents advice on how to prepare for future storms.
“Stay home and don’t drive and just stock up,” he said.
Viola said that residents driving during Hurricane Irene not only put themselves in danger, but also rescue crews. He said that during the storm one resident went around the barricades and drove into a flooded road.
“It turned out his vehicle’s flooding may have put emergency personnel in harm’s way (as they were) getting him out of that car,” Viola said.