Like many residents and business owners in the area, I too have grown tired and been inconvenienced too many times by Pepco’s inability to keep our power on during storms. I even put my disdain for the utility company in writing in a previous blog post in this publication. Despite my negative feelings and actions to express these sentiments in publications and to elected officials, I must give credit to Pepco for its performance during Sandy this past week. I praise the company with little hesitation, and I hope that this begins a cycle of providing adequate service to its customers.
Upon learning of Sandy’s impending arrival, my expectations for Pepco were low. We didn’t need the company and elected officials to warn us of potential power outages; my family and I fully anticipated this and made contingency plans accordingly. To us, the question was not if our power was going to go out, but when and for how long. I already began dreading how my wife and I would manage getting to work and dealing with our two infants while our power was out. While worse-case scenarios of property damage in and around Wheaton worried me, it was the best-case scenarios, which I thought were manageable under normal circumstances, that concerned me just as much. In turn, I had little confidence in Pepco at the time due to past performance and despite ample warnings leading up to the storm.
This sentiment began to change slightly as we got closer to the storm. Outside of the routine chatter of ensuring customers that the lines of communication on outages would expand, other actions—such as having out-of-state crews already in the area ready to work on outages after the storm—was a welcome sign. Furthermore, Pepco took some tangible preventive measures by patrolling the area prior to the storm in hopes of limiting outages. For once it seemed that Pepco was playing offense ahead of a storm and not waiting for everything to fall apart to take action. I still envisioned outages, and my confidence went from anticipating more than a week without power to going without it for only a few days. Not great still, but an improvement considering Sandy’s predicted seriousness.
And as the worst of Sandy roared through our area Monday night into Tuesday, my anticipation level for power outages that never came never ceased. To my pleasant surprise, outages were limited not only in Wheaton but throughout the entire DC metropolitan area. Whereas we experienced more than 440,000 outages after the derecho this past summer, Sandy only caused 130,000 outages. Even more telling was the fact that by Wednesday fewer than 1,000 customers remained without electricity, with the expectation that their power would be restored by the end of the week. Since Pepco has failed the community on random windy days or even after drizzles, the fact that outages were limited during 12 hours of wind and rain is revealing.
Skeptics will say that Pepco doesn’t deserve praise because we did not get the brunt of Sandy’s wrath. First, I am thankful and grateful that we experienced nothing close to what our fellow citizens did in New York and New Jersey. Second, had we all been experiencing outages now, we’d be using the same excuse of not being hit as hard by Sandy as was anticipated to vilify Pepco. We cannot have it both ways.
I am not ready to announce my full faith in Pepco due to one stand-up job. At the same time, the company does deserve credit for getting ahead of Sandy and taking preventive measures to limit outages and to immediately respond to them after the storm. I will continue to hold Pepco accountable for poor service and support continued efforts to ensure the company meets customer standards. For this one instance, though, I believe we should give Pepco credit and hope it applies best practices from Sandy to address and limit outages of future storms, major or otherwise.