EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

November 29, 2012

PSNH reports on response to Sandy

Utility touts improved response

Just a month after Hurricane Sandy left 1.3 million New England customers in the dark, New Hampshire’s largest utility issued a report on its own storm response.

At the peak of the outage here, Public Service of New Hampshire had 137,000 customers without power, some 26 percent of its customer base.

Three days later, PSNH had restored power to 99.9 percent of its customers, according to the report. The restoration cost is estimated at $12 million.

The storm ranks as the utility’s fourth largest restoration ever, with the top five all occurring since 2008.

The report credits advance planning, improved communication with customers and more assessors in the field as significant factors in its response. The storm caused more damage here than Irene did a year earlier, the report says, but PSNH completed its restoration in less time.

Early warning and preparation time made all the difference, according to utility spokesman Martin Murray.

“Unlike ‘Snowtober,’ when no one had any idea we were going to suffer the damage we did, we knew this time,” he said yesterday. “We had a very successful restoration effort; part of the credit is pre-staging and preparation, based on the forecast.”

That pre-staging including having crews in Texas, Oklahoma and several other states ready to help out, well in advance of any damage.

“That ended up paying off because troops were basically on the ground,” Murray said. “The amount of repairs made in three days time was extraordinary.”

Dozens of crews arrived from Hydro Quebec on the second day of restoration, a fact Murray said likely cut a day, even two, from the restoration process.

PSNH has a strong social media presence during outages, something Murray also pointed to as part of its successful recovery from the storm.

“We were actually the first utility in the U.S. to use social media proactively and interactively, starting with the ice storm in 2008,” he said. “We can’t provide the answer to every question asked, but it provides us with another communication tool to interact with customers. Sometimes all they want to know is someone is listening.”

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