Witt Associates, an emergency management consulting firm founded by former Clinton FEMA Director James Lee Witt, has completed a review of the restoration efforts in the wake of two major storms that left wide swaths of the state without power for prolonged periods of time. The analysis, released Friday during a press conference with Gov. Dannel Malloy, outlines several shortcomings that need to be addressed by the power companies and state emergency services while recognizing that damage from Tropical Storm Irene and Winter Storm Alfred were unprecedented challenges.
“This was an unprecedented storm that caused real hardship for many of our residents,” Malloy said, speaking specifically of the October Nor’easter that left parts of the state powerless for almost two weeks. “But if something good came out of it, it’s that it’s giving us the chance to put in place an unprecedented level of response should it be necessary in the future. Thanks to Witt Associates, we have a report that will help our public utilities and state government understand what went wrong, why it went wrong and how to fix it.”
The evaluation of the state’s power companies — Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P) and United Illuminating (UI) — revealed “significant shortcomings in preparedness, communications and public/private sector cooperation,” Witt Associates Vice President Charles Fisher said Friday.
According to the report:
- CL&P was not prepared for an event of this size. The worst-case scenario in the company’s emergency response plan considered outages over 100,000 customers, or less than 10 percent of their total customer base. At peak, 809,097 customers — about two-thirds of its base — lost power as a result of the October snowstorm.
- CL&P did not lean forward by pre-staging adequate restoration resources in advance of the October 29 snowstorm; this delayed the recovery effort in the first days.
- CL&P developed an internal stretch goal to restore power to 99 percent of all customers by Sunday, November 6, even though they appeared to know it was more likely that they wouldn’t hit that goal until Wednesday, November 9. Without vetting internally, the company announced this date as a public performance commitment. This announcement, and a subsequent commitment to restore 99 percent of all customers in each of 149 municipalities by November 6, unnecessarily contributed to community angst and increased customer frustration and challenges for municipal governments.
While the Witt report primarily concentrated on CL&P, Malloy said he believes UI should “glean what it can” from the report to improve its disaster preparedness plans.
As for the state and local governments, the report found that “public sector emergency response planning at the state and local levels does not adequately focus on actions needed in a significant power outage,” Malloy noted. “State and local plans call for reports from power companies but do not address multi-agency actions or coordination needed to address energy disruption.”
The report includes a breakdown of the timeline of events for each storm, an analysis of the coordinated response and specific recommendations to improve that response in the future.
“Based on our findings and past experience, we believe, if implemented, the 27 recommendations for improvement will build a strong foundation allowing Connecticut communities to recover from such events in a more expedited and cooperative process,” Fisher said.
“And this is just the first step,” Malloy added. “I am still looking forward to the long term plan the Two Storm Panel will ultimately produce, as well as to a more detailed follow-up report from an outside consultant.”
Fisher is scheduled to present his findings to the Two Storm Panel Friday, the working group created to review the preparedness, response and recovery efforts in the wake of the two storms. The eight-member panel will ultimately present a set of recommendations to Gov. Malloy on how those efforts can be improved.
Copies of the report [attached above] can be downloaded from the Witt Associates website.