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Restoration efforts focus on large groups of people first

In the past year, two major storm-related outages left residents without electricity for days as utilities struggled to get power back on.

Following June's derecho, residents in North Carroll were left without power for six days. Residents in North Carroll historically have had issues getting their power turned back on, said Steve Powell, the county chief of staff, in a previous interview. The county can engage with an area if they experience frequent outages, he said.

The restoration method employed by power companies during June's derecho began by restoring job-based outages first, and then moving to a feeder-based approach, according to Baltimore Gas & Electric's major storm report to the Public Service Commission.

Electric utility companies must submit a report to the PSC when more than 10 percent or 100,000 customers, whichever is less, are without power.

A job-based restoration effort typically occurs in a storm where outages are scattered, said Rachael Lighty, a media spokesperson for BGE. In a smaller storm, it may make more sense to do a job-based restoration, where crews are deployed to the specific area with a power outage, Lighty said.

Then the power company transitioned to a feeder-based restoration effort, which is what it employed during Superstorm Sandy. A feeder-based restoration effort focuses on fixing heavy damage at the feeders, which includes tree clearing and reconstruction, according to the storm report.

Crews begin at BGE substations and repair the feeder, which restores power to a large number of people. Priorities for BGE restoration is listed in the major outage report for Superstorm Sandy. The priorities began with public safety issues, including downed wires, critical care customers such as 911 centers, hospitals and water and sewage treatment centers. Then the electrical system "backbone," which includes many of the feeders, as well as large outages which affect the most customers is restored. Customers who have been without power the longest are the last priority on the list.

In North Carroll, where customers are not near a city or town, residents were left without power. After the derecho, however, that changed for some residents along Barnhart Road. Cindy Martin, a North Carroll resident, said BGE became aggressive with tree trimming and since then, they have not lost power, not even for Superstorm Sandy.

"You're always looking for opportunities to enhance restorations," Rob Gould, media spokesperson for BGE, said.

One major difference between Superstorm Sandy and the derecho was the ability to order crews from out of town using mutual assistance networks, according to the report on Superstorm Sandy. There was a struggle in receiving all of the crews, due to the damage Sandy caused along the East Coast, according to the report.

The storm resulted in 5,087 outage jobs which restored a total of 349,798 customers during Sandy, according to the report. Approximately 760,000 customers lost power during June's derecho, which took seven days for complete power restoration.

The Office of the People's Counsel approaches the Public Service Commission with cases that are in the best interest to the consumers. Paula Carmody, the people's counsel, said due to an upswing in natural disasters, frustration levels have been rising among consumers.

"The other thing is, that because of changes in people's lives or lifestyles, [there are] higher expectations perhaps in regards to service, or greater reliance," Carmody said.

Gould said when drafting a report, they look at preventative ways to prevent power outages, like aggressive tree trimming.

"We never sit on our laurels," Gould said.

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