Hurricane Irene made it hard to communicate with Haverford Township officials and customers, said PECO Communications Manager Cathy Engel Menendez.
In a Friday morning phone interview, Menendez told the Haverford-Havertown Patch that Hurricane Irene, which produced eight to 12 hours of strong winds, made it difficult to communicate with Haverford Township officials and residents.
In Thursday’s press conference, Haverford Township commissioners, who were able to attend, heavily criticized the power company for what they saw was a lack of communication between PECO and the township and residents.
Some of the complaints that customers had was the inability to get updated information on when their power would return or why PECO was not contacting them, said Dan Siegel, 4th Ward Commissioner, at the press conference, who said that he received more than 100 emails from residents.
But Menendez said that providing updated information was difficult.
“During a storm of this magnitude we can’t give updates of when power will come back on,” said Menendez, explaining that PECO’s Emergency Response Organization—which was set up on Thursday, Aug. 25, for Hurricane Irene and is still working as of Friday morning—had a difficult time giving updates as new information was constantly coming in.
But PECO did tell customers to expect to be without power for up to 10 days or more before Hurricane Irene even approached, Menendez said. She stated that even PECO was surprised how quickly they were able to restore power once the 4,000 work crews, some from different locations throughout the country, were able to assess the extent of the storm damage.
In a about the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, Menendez told Patch that 90 percent of the Philadelphia region would have restored power by this past Wednesday and the remaining 10 percent of people should have it back before the start of the Labor Day weekend. As of Friday morning, Menendez said those estimates have proven accurate.
More than 500,000 were left without power once the storm was over.
During the press conference, a number of the commissioners expressed their desire to have a meeting with PECO to discuss the communication problems. Menendez said PECO will be doing that.
“We’re looking forward to sitting down with Haverford Township and discuss what worked well and what needs to change,” she said, adding that PECO routinely does assessment meetings with local officials after major storms.
When speaking at the press conference, 1st Ward Commissioner and Township Vice President Steve D'Emilio gave an example of one of the issues the township had with the company. He said it was “unacceptable” that PECO did not to respond right away to a call from the township about a live wire that was knocked down from a fallen tree.
Power to that line was not shut off until 12 hours after it fell, he said.
But not all of the 4,000 workers were able to handle situations as quickly as possible and in cases as what D’Emilio described, PECO sent “wire sitters” to safe guard the area until work crews arrived to handle the situation, Menendez explained.
While the commissioners said they would not consider issuing a complaint against PECO with the commonwealth’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) until they meet with the power company, Menendez said, “I have not heard a single complaint being filed. If so, we follow up on each complaint.”
Patch contacted Press Secretary Jennifer Kocher of PUC about how many complaints were filed against PECO and she said she would return Patch’s phone call once she is able to obtain that information.