In today’s on-line version of Greenwich Time he asks where is the town’s emergency preparedness plan and why is it kept in a secure, undisclosed location? (I have it on reliable authority, Bob, that it’s stashed in Peter Tesei’s under drawers). Horton’s absolutely right, but I disagree with some of his observations, like this one:
I am not an expert on the utility business, but it seems that CL&P has outsourced all but the most basic day-to-day maintenance of its infrastructure. In the event of a major storm, CL&P relies on hundreds of crews from far-off states to ride to the rescue. And if you think CL&P is going to “pre-position” this civilian army on our borders at the first hint of trouble, think again. These crews do not truly mobilize until the damage is done, and then they are at least a two-day drive away.
Bob, at the peak of restoration efforts, CL&P had over 4,000 out-of-state crews working 16 hours a day. To suggest that CL&P pre-position them on our borders is just silly – you’d have to call them down from Quebec and Minnesota, say, days in advance of a threatened storm. Who foots the bill for that when the hurricane shifts course and veers out to sea? It happens.
And your criticism of CL&P for keeping too few linemen on its payroll is no better founded: we rate payers can’t afford, nor would we want to keep enough linemen on the payroll to make a significant difference in responding to one or two disasters every couple of years. If 4,000 crews were required to effectively repair the state’s wires, what would 100 men accomplish? An expensive luxury, however powerfully symbolic.
On the other hand, this is a great question, and the problem it exposes seems easily correctable:
In speaking to a crew that I believe was based in Quebec, they said that a shortage of gasoline hindered their repair work. Wondering if a backup gasoline supply was covered by the town’s emergency plan, I emailed Peter Tesei. He took great exception to my question and to my “pre-determined agenda,” but also forwarded a response from Emergency Management DirectorDaniel Warzoha. He wrote that providing gasoline was not part of the town’s responsibility (perhaps a new section of our secret emergency plan is needed?), but that between the town’s Fleet Department and CL&P creating a fueling station at Grass Island, utility crews had the gasoline they needed.
I heard from a friend that she saw line crews stuck in gas lines, waiting an hour to refuel. She called Fred Camillo, he called Tesei, he called the Chief of Police and an order went out to the cops directing those lines to give the power workers priority. I was gratified to learn that that entire process took just 30 minutes t work its way up, and then down the chain of command, but isn’t this something that should have been thought of and planned for years ago?
Horton’s right: if our “emergency plan” really exists, why not make it public and see what deficiencies ordinary citizens might spot?
But here’s the real point of Sandy and the lesson we should have learned, which Horton doesn’t address: help in even a modest-disaster like this is not going to be instantly available. It can’t be, so citizens should be prepared to look after themselves for several days, if not longer. “Preppers” have been ridiculed for years, and I tend to scoff at what seems to be their paranoia, but we’d all have been far more comfortable last week if our houses had basic camping gear and emergency food stores at hand. We don’t need a government emergency plan to know that, and to act on it.