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.
JCP&L 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."
Aberdeen and Matawan officials have been and continue to be critical of JCP&L's performance after the storm. Large segments of the area were out of power for almost two weeks despite suffering minimal damage as compared to neighboring municipalities.
After Sandy struck, Aberdeen Police Chief John Powers told residents at a public meeting that JCP&L shared few details in regards to where the crews would be working, when they would be working, and when power would be returned to specific areas.
Township attorney Mark DiPisa added that the information they did receive was often old or inaccurate.
“The communication with these companies is horrible; they are not transparent. The same troubles and struggles that you have with JCP&L, this town has with JCP&L," he said at the Nov. 8 meeting.
In an attempt to keep residents informed, the Matawan Police Department began posting photos on Facebook of crews they found hard at work within the borough. Crew members often passed along their work plans to the officers, giving residents at least some idea of what was being done to restore their power.
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."