Thursday, September 1, 2011



I am one of thousands of New Jersey JCP&L customers still without power as a result of Hurricane Irene. My house draws water from a well, so no electricity means no water. Still, my wife and I are among the more fortunate because we have the resources to stay in hotels until the power is restored. I say “hotels” (plural) because we check into and out of a hotel every day. We do this because we can’t get a human being on the phone from JCP&L to give an estimated as to when we can reasonably expect to have power again. We check out hoping that power will be back that day. We’ve had to stay in different hotels because on two occasions, the hotel we checked out of in the morning was fully booked later that day. We would have stayed checked in if somebody from JCP&L would actually give us personal and not computer automated information.

I sent JCP&L an email today asking for a projected power restoration date and got the following automated computer email response……….

“FirstEnergy has received your inquiry. We will respond to your message within 48 hours. If you need to contact us about this request, please reply to this e-mail, including the Request Number in the Subject line or call your FirstEnergy Contact Center. Thank you for visiting FirstEnergy's Web site.”

I then emailed Lee Solomon, President of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. I wasn’t asking for any preferential treatment. I simply wanted him to add my situation to his file of displaced and dissatisfied JCP&L customers. He very quickly responded to me and many others who also contacted him. That email read as follows……….

“I received your e-mails regarding JCP&L’s performance, or lack thereof, during the aftermath of Hurricane Irene and at other times. I have reviewed all of them, and I am appalled by what you describe.

I am sorry that some of you inferred from the article in the Star Ledger today, that I was “apologizing” for JCP&L. As a former prosecutor, I am always reluctant to reach conclusions before the evidence is gathered, and reviewed. As a former judge, and as a Commissioner in a quasi-judicial position, I may not make a determination until the evidence is in, and a record established. Nevertheless, I have expressed your feelings, and mine to Tony Alexander, President and CEO, First Energy Corp. (the parent company), and Don Lynch, President, JCP&L.

While my main interest, at this time, is seeing to it that electric service is restored to all residents as quickly as possible, we will investigate and review thoroughly the conduct of all utilities, and their parent companies during this crisis. This process will be noticed, and public. If adequate preparations were not made in advance of the storm, or adequate resources not dedicated to deal with its aftermath, we will determine that and hold the utility(ies) accountable.”

I then received another email from JCP&L. This one finally provided a possible restoration date. It read as follows……..

“Thank you for utilizing FirstEnergy's Customer Care website for your account needs. Your electric outage has been reported. Unfortunately, due to the severity of storm damage throughout our service territory, we are unable to provide specific restoration times by address. We estimate that the majority of our customers will be restored by Friday night, September 2nd, with the remainder throughout the weekend.”

I get it that Hurricane Irene was a devastating natural disaster, but I believe that during and after such emergencies is when actual JCP&L human beings should be available to speak to the human beings who desperately need information. In my experience, the opposite has been true in this case.


Anonymous said...

Failure to communicate: I just want you to know, even if you got a hold of a "live" person, you would get the same rhetoric as you received in your email. I find it appalling with all the technology we have today, First Energy can not communicate to their customers when a service crew will be in their territory. The excuse at the call centers where you can talk to a "live" person is that they don't have that information and they can't get it from their dispatchers. They say if they called their dispatchers every time they got a call from a customer, it would take time away from the dispatcher getting crews out to do their work. I am really sorry, but this answer is very lame. If this is truly the case, then First Energy needs to change their systems and how they handle information to their customers. I have spoken to many "live" people at the Supervisory level and have received nothing but rhetoric. The information given is useless. The words "majority" and "remainder" are meaningless. Could I determine from this bit of information if I was in the "majority" or part of the "remainder".

Five days ago, we had a crew come out and reattach the lines that came down. But what that crew couldn't do was replace the transformer that was damaged. It is now seven days since we have had power. Please, tell me how sending out two crews to cover one job is cost effective and time efficient. We have lost 5 days waiting for a transformer. Something is very wrong here. Will we ever really know the truth? More than likely no. This company has totally left us in the dark.

Anonymous said...

Hi I just read your thoughts sharing about the JCP&L company's lack of urgency and communication. I was curious, did you ever get the situaution resolved by them? Do you still use JCP&L for energy since this happened? Do you write other sources or have a website of more writings?

PS I wanted to get your opinion related to this topic.

Houston said...

This is gorgeous!