For the second consecutive year, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) has honored The United Illuminating Co. and its parent company, UIL Holdings Corp., with its Emergency Response Award for Recovery.
This award recognizes UI’s planning and successful restoration of customers after Hurricane Sandy. UI won a similar EEI award last year, in recognition of its restoration efforts following Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.
UI also received a 2012 EEI Assistance Award for the work UI crews did with assisting other states and utilities restore power during the Derecho in Maryland and Washington, D.C., in July of 2012 when winds of 60 to 80 mph left more than one million customers in the dark.
“The fact that we have now been presented with three major awards from EEI in two years’ time is a testament to the hard work of our employees and our partners during the severe weather events of 2011 and 2012,” said James P. Torgerson, UI and UIL’s president and chief executive officer. “I am tremendously proud of the men and women of UI.”
Hurricane Sandy, which struck Oct. 29, 2012, was one of the largest and most destructive Atlantic hurricanes on record, causing significant damage to UI’s electric system and leaving wide areas of the company’s territory without electric service.
During the lead-up and response to the storm, UI benefited greatly from what it learned during Irene to restore electric service to all customers safely and swiftly, activating its newly updated emergency plan and employing a “forward-leaning” strategy that had just been freshly tested in a statewide drill in July.
When Hurricane Sandy arrived, UI greeted it with 700 staff and contract field personnel, mobilized and ready to begin restoring service. As a result of UI’s pro-active planning and updated strategy, this initial field force was larger than the peak field staffing that UI staged after Irene. The field force eventually swelled to approximately 1,200 as mutual assistance crews poured in from as far away as Canada and Missouri.
UI worked directly with municipal leaders and first-responders to ensure roadways were clear of hazards, and to restore local priorities such as hospitals and emergency shelters.
Meanwhile, it used multiple communications channels to ensure customers and stakeholders had the information they needed when it became available. It deployed an automated calling system to reach out to vulnerable medical hardship customers, and engaged other customers via both traditional and social media, issuing storm instructions, readiness tips and other proactive messages.
In the end, UI was able to restore electric service to virtually all of its customers — excluding those who could not accept service — within eight days of the storm, ahead of all stated goals.
Torgerson noted that UI itself has benefited from mutual assistance on several occasions, including Hurricane Sandy and Tropical Storm Irene.
“We understand how important it is to get electric service back on quickly and safely after a devastating storm,” he said.