Pepco chief: Storm response was flawed

By Dan Morse
Wednesday, July 28, 2010; 3:52 PM

Pepco region president Thomas H. Graham said Wednesday morning that the number of customers without power had dipped below 31,000 and damaged substations were operating again.

During a news briefing, Graham acknowledged that the utility's caller response technology performed poorly during and after the storm. He encouraged customers to continue reporting outages, and said Pepco will strive to trim more trees on private property as part of regular maintenance, even in green-minded Montgomery County.

"We still ask for our customers' patience," Graham said. "We apologize for the inconvenience. But we're working as hard as we can to restore service."

After power is restored, he said, the utility will fully turn its attention to improving caller response technology, which had offered errant estimations of when service would be restored.

"We are not satisfied with the way our technology performed during this event," he said. "It was just not acceptable."

Graham said Pepco doesn't have a magic lighted board that lets it pinpoint individual customers without power.

"The best piece of diagnostic information that we have right now are our customers calling 1-877-PEPCO62," he said.

Tree-induced outages on private property continue to be a big problem for the utility. He said the area serviced by Pepco has the third densest tree population canopy in the United States, behind the Atlanta and Portland areas. Some areas of Montgomery County consider tree canopy at their core fabric, he noted.

Graham said the utility is working with county officials to be able to trim trees more easily on private property in the future.

"I've lived here my whole life. I love the area. The trees are a big part of it," Graham said. "But now that I work for a utility, I also understand the down side of that ... If we had the opportunity to do so, we'd be a little more aggressive with tree trimming, especially in Montgomery County."

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