Prince George’s residents are blasting Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) for its slow response to power outages caused by Hurricane Irene. The slow response has some residents enraged over going nearly a week without power.

“I’ve heard stories of spoiled food, flooded basements and residents with medical issues that were complicated due to not having electricity in their homes,” said Kettering Home Owners Association President Arthur Turner. “Many of our neighbors had to go live with family and friends until their power was restored. Women and children feared for their safety because their home security alarms weren’t working. This is unacceptable.”

Most government offices had power restored by Aug. 29, but some schools went days without power. In fact, Glenarden Woods Elementary missed four days of classes last week due to outages.

BGE began communicating the potential damage of the storm days before its arrival with an automated message sent to its 1.2 million customers throughout the state. It then procured the help of over 2,000 utility workers outside of the state of Maryland. Despite that, major issues still occurred for the utility giant.

On Sept. 4, almost a full week after the storm had ended, BGE was still trying to restore power to the remaining customers, while PEPCO, a company that had been the source of much displeasure among customers and elected officials, had restored power to all its customers three days earlier.

“This has been an immense restoration effort. We could not have accomplished this as quickly, safely and efficiently as we have if it were not for the planning, preparation and execution of staff and crews,” said Thomas H. Graham, president, Pepco Region, in a statement. “We appreciate the patience and understanding of our customers and the cooperation of all involved.

To be fair to the BGE, the utility company services areas from Baltimore City south to Prince George’s County and had to deal with a much larger number of outages than Pepco. The company had its hands full, with 750,000 customers dealing with lost power compared to Pepco’s 220,000.

Due to the negative response it received from customers and the fact that it had major issues communicating times when service would be restored, BGE says it intends on examining its practices to see what it could do better next time.

“BGE understands that many of our customers have grown increasingly angry and frustrated by the lack of consistency regarding estimated times of restoration (ETR), said Jeannette M. Mills, senior vice president and chief customer officer for BGE, in a statement. “We understand that many customers experienced multiple ETRs, largely due to the fact that until actual crews arrived on the scene of their jobs and could conduct a thorough inspection of the damaged equipment, ETRs were based on very limited information.

“Given the challenges associated with providing ETRs during major events, BGE intends to take a very close look at this practice specifically as it relates to large-scale events such as Hurricane Irene,” Mills continued.


George Barnette

Special to the AFRO