Outages Continue to Translate to Outrage for NJ Sandy Victims

November 27, 2012

  By Allison Boccamazzo, Director of Brand Strategy

It truly feels surreal that in two days, it will already have been one month since Sandy initially surged through the East Coast, leaving behind trails of destruction in 24 states total. Those who live in unaffected areas may not comprehend or grasp the full scale of disaster that fell upon these areas, especially New Jersey. While the state’s power companies have undoubtedly received the brunt of it all, one individual is not looking to raise the white flag just yet.

In a recent Times of Trenton guest opinion column, Shirley Turner takes the time to remind us of just how accountable these power companies should be. Not in a manic, red-faced fit of pointing fingers, but in a way resounding of consolation for a state that requires ample amounts of relentless effort to get back up on its feet. In other words, a way that begs for a better path next time around, which it hopefully never comes down to.

“It may have taken more than two weeks, but, finally, the blackouts that blanketed our region in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy are becoming the stuff of bad memories. The lessons from these blackouts, however, should not be ignored,” Turner writes, citing that one of the most important lessons in this mess is “realizing the need to ensure that power companies have precautionary measures and contingency plans in place to help prevent another week-long outage.”

Yes, preparation for Sandy should have been seen as a triumph after equal devastation from ghosts of tropical storms past, including Irene and Lee in 2011, as well as last year’s October snowstorm. In the opinion of Turner, enough is enough.

“With Superstorm Sandy, it is clearly past time to require power companies to file comprehensive emergency response plans with state officials to ensure timely restoration of power,” she writes. “For too many residents, the experience after Hurricane Sandy was déjà vu. If we had learned our lesson from last year, the work to restore power would have been organized and orderly, with clear-cut deadlines and benchmarks, not another disjointed scramble.”

It’s true that multiple groups of citizens cannot withstand the effects of having no power for up to or more than 10 continuous days. Consider the elderly, disabled residents and families with children as just a sampling of these groups. Additionally, critical facilities such as hospitals should never have to fear losing power, which happened in a few instances during Hurricane Sandy. “We need sound emergency plans in place to prevent these extensive outages in the future,” Turner insists.

In Turner’s ideal world, a strict fining system would be immediately implemented demanding utilities who fail to follow a law of best practices regarding power outages to pay up. While these fines would accrue for some time after its introduction, any fines collected due to noncompliance would be placed in an account to provide grants to municipalities affected by power outages for certain storm-related maintenance costs. This way, taxpayers won’t have to pay the bill.

What do you think of Turner’s suggestion for increased power protection?

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Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli

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