For Immediate Release
For Immediate Release September 19, 2003, 2:00 p.m.
Restoration Time Is Estimated as at least a Week
Pepco is in the process of conducting a full-scale damage assessment throughout its service territory using personnel patrolling feeder lines on foot, in vehicles and in helicopters, and local government reports. The initial survey indicates that a massive effort in each portion of the service area - the largest ever undertaken by Pepco -- is required to restore service to the more than 500,000 customers who lost power in the wind and rain brought by Hurricane Isabel. As of 1 P.M. today about 531,000 Pepco customers were without power, well more than 2/3 of Pepco's customer base of 720,000 and by far the highest number to lose power in Pepco's history.
Preliminarily we had reports of the following damage: more than 1,000 wires down; 380 feeder lines locked out; five substations down; and more than 3,000 transformers out. These numbers will probably increase, possibly substantially. Due to the extensive and unprecedented damage, it could be a week or more before everyone's service is restored. The damage in our area is consistent with reports from other utilities in the mid-Atlantic region where more than 7 million people are without power in areas of North Carolina, Virginia, the District and Maryland.
Currently more than 700 crews are at work in rotating 12-hour shifts. Due to the significant damage, Pepco has contacted other utilities from as far away as Canada for additional assistance. Countless support personnel also are working behind the scenes.
To protect crew safety, restoration work was suspended overnight until the high winds diminished. Crews began work at 2 a.m., today, concentrating on emergency work such as wires down on major roads such as I-270 and several hospitals. To speed restoration, Pepco has assigned crews consisting of patrollers, tree crews and overhead line mechanics to major feeders. The priority today is to restore bulk transmission and public safety facilities.
WEEK-LONG PREPARATION EFFORT
Virtually all areas of Pepco have worked diligently for nearly a week to prepare for the storm. Staff lined up crews from distant utilities, procured dry ice and arranged for distribution centers, ordered replacement poles, transformers and other electric supplies and equipment to expedite the restoration process, and trained hundreds of support personnel to handle customer calls, patrol for damage, check on downed wires, lead outside crews, and other tasks.
DRY ICE DISTRIBUTION UNDER WAY
To assist customers who have lost power, Pepco has been distributing 350,000 pounds of dry ice at three locations since about noon, and has ordered an additional 250,000 pounds. The locations are as follows:
Earlier today Pepco issued an urgent plea, asking people not to use the Pepco downed wires emergency number to report power outages. The number to call to report power outages is: 1-877-Pepco-62 (1-877-737-2662). Customers calling the emergency line with non-emergency situations are tying up this line and jeopardizing the safety of customers with actual life-threatening situations. Furthermore it will delay reporting of their outage.
Customer calls are crucial to helping Pepco identify outage locations and we ask for customer cooperation in calling us to report outages even if their neighbors have already called. To report a power outage customers should call: 1-877-Pepco-62 (1-877-737-2662). As power is restored we ask customers to contact us if their neighbor's lights go on but they remain without power so we can pinpoint the location of the problem.
Pepco's automated answering system is used to initially identify outage locations, and customers can be confident that their outage is reported if they use this system. However, we understand that customers may want to speak to a Pepco representative directly in this situation, and we have trained 100 additional employees to respond to customer calls, tripling the number of staff in the call center. Nevertheless, please understand that the wait times may be lengthy due to the expected high volume of calls, and Pepco appreciates customers' patience.
We first work to correct potentially life-threatening situations, such as downed live wires. We then work to restore power to the largest number of customers at one time by focusing on repairs to substations and major feeder lines. Completion of these repairs often results in restored power to thousands of customers at once. We then work to restore power to smaller groups of customers or neighborhoods. Finally, we work to restore power to individual homes and businesses. Pepco maintains contact with state and local emergency management agencies to keep them up to date on the status of restoration efforts.
This restoration process is particularly challenging because of the countless trees and branches which must first be cleared before restoration work can be done, and due to flooding of some underground equipment.
PLEASE KEEP SAFETY IN MIND
Pepco strongly encourages customers to make safety a priority. Stay away from downed power lines. All downed lines should be treated as if they are energized, and people should not approach them or touch them. If citizens see a downed wire they should call Pepco at (202) 872-3432 or local authorities and report it. Keep away from flooded areas and stay indoors. Remember, electricity and water is a dangerous combination. Even wading in a shallow puddle or flooded basement that is exposed to an energized line could cause a harmful electrical contact.
Customers who use private electrical generators in the event of a power outage should make sure those generators are not connected to Pepco's system. This will prevent generators from inadvertently feeding back into the system and posing a risk to repair crews who are working on the system and to any customers who may be exposed to downed lines. Customers should refrain from connecting generators to their home circuit breakers or fuse boxes. Private generators should be run outdoors and appliances should be connected directly to the generator by an extension cord.
Pepco is asking customers whose service has been disrupted to shut off major appliances, such as electric water heaters and air conditioners and to leave one light switch on. This will help prevent an overload once power is restored.
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About Pepco: For more than 100 years, Pepco has served the people of the Washington metropolitan area with clean, reliable and low-cost electricity. Pepco, a wholly owned subsidiary of Pepco Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: POM), provides electricity transmission and distribution services to more than 700,000 customers in the District of Columbia and major portions of Prince George`s and Montgomery County in Maryland.
Point of Contact:Robert Dobkin