The last 80 hours without free-flowing electricity have been trying but all in all not too bad. I have had mixed feelings about ComEd’s response. It is easy to just get angry and start blaming them for all the mess, but almost 1 million locations lost power, which I believe was a record, so maybe we should evaluate that a little further.
For me, I find some positives about ComEd’s response. First, I was impressed with the ability of ComEd to recruit so many out-of-state workers. There were crews from something like 8 states including Alabama and Maryland (I believe) and some fine folks from JT Electric in Edwardsville, IL. Working in my neighbor’s yard. I’m assuming ComEd is picking up all the costs for this, but getting 900 crews in the field within 24 hours was impressive and confidence creating. Now, if this turns into justification for a rate hike, that will turn into a negative.
The biggest positive on ComEd’s behalf was the use of its Twitter feed. In the jobs I have had, especially in education, there always seem to be some management that never makes an effort to be seen or known. These managers or administrators are the ones it is easy to bad mouth and trash behind their backs. The same thing can happen during a power outage. People are frustrated, scared, confused and looking for someone to blame. It is easy to go off of ComEd and I started to. I posted a slightly negative tweet about ComEd’s estimated repair times and, lo and behold, someone from ComEd replied!
While the information wasn’t phenomenal, I was so impressed that someone replied and I felt reassured that those of that were power less weren’t actually powerless. This person (or more likely a team of people) kept responding to tweets all throughout the outage. They responded to happy and angry tweet and with a kind and reassuring voice. And, let me tell you, some of the tweeters were a bit hot under the collar. @panicM00N was a prime example:
But, ComEd was calm in their response.
Lastly, the nice ComEd people also were willing to take suggestions like this one from my wife:
As for the negatives, I don’t really fault them for the outage. Maybe it is their fault with due to dyeing infrastructure, but that isn’t really about the response to the storm. My biggest criticism is with their estimated repair time system and the texts I received. While I appreciate that they want to trying to keep us informed as best they can, the times were very poor.
The power went out at about 8 AM Monday morning and my initial estimated repair time was 6 PM on Tuesday. Because of this time, we decided not to buy a generator and not to make certain choices about our situation. After Tuesday night came and went the time kept moving later and until I received a text from ComEd telling me my power was restored and it was wrong. After I called to inform them of this my estimated restore time got pushed to 6 PM Saturday! This really made us rethink our plans, but then the power was restored by 8 PM on Thursday.
Ultimately, I am not sure what advice I would give the good people who bring me power. Don’t give updates unless they are accurate? Predict the longest possible time right away and then make it sooner? Or keep doing what they’re doing? In some respects, a wrong prediction is just as bad (maybe worse) than no prediction, but I did appreciate their attempts to harness the power of texting and the internet.
Ultimately, I would give ComEd a B on their response to the storm. People who were without power longer than I might have more harsh words, but I felt that throughout the entire escapade ComEd was working as hard as they could to get the outage fixed and I felt that they were always looking out for me throughout the process. Maybe their grade for preventive maintenance should be lower, but that would be a different discussion.