Jersey Central Power and Light (JCP&L) is saying that it will improve its communication with towns during "significant storm events," after the utility company was criticized by many municipal officials after Hurricane Sandy.
The company attempted communication improvements on the ground after Hurricane Irene in 2011, but Mayor Jon Hornik in Marlboro and former Mayor Jarrett Engel in Colts Neck both agree that more needs to be done.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Engel said his updates from JCP&L corporate officers were either outdated or incorrect.
"Unfortunately, we have found that communication with JCP&L regarding timing and location has been unreliable and inaccurate; with no information beyond today, other than that most of our town should have power by Wednesday," Engel said.
Hornik said most of his information came from linemen, the Marlboro Police Department and residents instead of JCP&L.
"I know we have a long list of things that we think JCP&L needs to do to become better in terms of responding and restoring electricity," Hornik said in November. "It's not only communication. The actual restoration operation is completely in the dark ages."
In March of 2012, the power company announced a $200 million improvement project in all town serviced. According to a news release at the time, improvements focused on infrastructure.
Going forward with JCP&L
JCP&L has now announced new practices and upcoming technology improvements at meetings on Jan. 3 in Eatontown and Morristown with members of the League of Municipalities, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and the New Jersey State Police.
A news release from JCP&L states that the communication enhancements will include:
- Providing municipalities with maps showing electrical circuit routes in their communities;
- Locating JCP&L municipal liaisons in company field offices to maintain contact with local officials;
- Hosting targeted teleconference briefings for municipal officials about localized restoration work;
- Deploying additional company personnel to work with municipal representatives;
- Training county and municipal first responders on electrical safety;
- Participating in community advisory board meetings with county and municipal leaders and emergency agencies to outline the company's restoration procedures.
"We are committed to continuous improvement for our customers and welcome the opportunity to work with state, county and municipal officials over the next several months as we implement these new practices," JCP&L President Don Lynch said in the release.
"These enhancements, which are based on feedback from customers and municipal officials following Hurricane Sandy, are designed to provide more outreach and collaboration to elected officials and customers about the company's restoration process and priorities on a community by community basis."
JCP&L said it is in the process of developing several mobile technology tools to help customers report outages and access information about their electric account.
"This month, the company will launch a new customer app that can be downloaded to Apple or Android smartphones," the JCP&L release states. "The app will make it easier for customers to report a power outage, view the company's 24/7 Power Center maps, or access their JCP&L accounts from a mobile device. The app will be similar to the company's new mobile website, which is available now by visiting www.jcp-l.com from a smartphone."
The release also states that the ability for its customers to receive outage or account information via text message or email are under development and should be available later this year.
Improvements also are being made to JCP&L's 24/7 Power Center, "including a greater level of detail about power outages, and redesigning content to ensure customers can find the information they need before, during and after a major storm."