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Overall, electric utilities and state governments provided more effective responsiveness and handling of the 2012 Hurricane Sandy emergency than did local and federal governments, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2013 Hurricane Sandy Responsiveness Study.

The survey, which is based on interviews of more than 5,900 U.S. residential customers in 31 utility territories impacted by Hurricane Sandy, was conducted from Jan. 4 to Jan. 11, 2013. Overall responsiveness is measured by examining three areas across electric utilities and local, state, and federal governments: preparedness for the hurricane; efforts to support hurricane recovery; and effectiveness of communications.

The emergency responsiveness of state governments and electric utilities (611 and 610, respectively, on a 1,000-point scale) surpass local governments (598) and the federal government (539) in overall responsiveness to the emergency.  

The report says that Hurricane Sandy's damage is estimated at $50 billion, making it the second-costliest hurricane in U.S. history. During the October 2012 hurricane event, approximately 8.5 million customers lost power and 65,000 utility workers responded from 80 utilities from nearly every state and Canada, dispatching crews and equipment to impacted areas. During the hurricane, 43% of all customers surveyed experienced a power outage lasting 24 hours or longer. The average outage duration among all customers surveyed was 48 hours.

"Overall, the federal government does not receive high ratings from customers impacted by Hurricane Sandy,” says John Hazen, senior director of the energy utility practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “For utilities and local and state governments, the results are more mixed, with some receiving high ratings for their effectiveness of handling of the emergency and a few receiving low ratings."

The Connecticut, Delaware and New Jersey state governments perform highest in the study in overall responsiveness to the hurricane emergency. Among the 15 states included in the study, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia perform lowest in responsiveness to the emergency. Customers in New Jersey, New York and West Virginia rate the federal government lowest in responsiveness to the emergency, while Maine and Maryland rate the federal government highest in responsiveness.

Among customers with extensive outages (average length of 24 hours or longer), three electric utilities perform particularly well in the study: Atlantic City Electric, Central Hudson Gas & Electric and PPL Electric Utilities. Local governments that perform well overall include cities within the counties of Bronx, N.Y.; Burlington, N.J.; and New Haven, Conn.

Obtaining timely outage information is critical to utility customers, says J.D. Power and Associates. Customers received most of their information regarding the outage by calling their utility directly (37%); listening to radio or watching TV (29%); and going directly to their utility's website (17%). Nearly three-fourths (71%) of customers who made contact with their utility during the outage used their mobile cellphone or smartphone.

According to the report, satisfaction is highest among customers who say they received proactive outbound communications, in which their utility sent emails, text messages or outbound phone calls.

The study finds that customers' perceptions of work crews deployed during the storm recovery varied. One half (50%) of all customers observed their utility's crews working at their home or elsewhere in their area. Also, 18% of all customers observed work crews from other utilities assisting in restoration efforts.

Satisfaction with efforts to support recovery increases when customers observe their local utility's crew working, notes J.D. Power and Associates. However, satisfaction declines when customers observe only crews from utilities other than their own out working. Fifty-four percent of customers agree other utilities' work crews were more knowledgeable and courteous (52%) than local utilities' work crews on knowledge (50%) and courtesy (44%).

As a preventive measure against storm-related power outages, 66% of all customers agree that "power lines should be buried underground in your area" (with 20% not having an opinion). However, only 37% of customers say they are "willing to accept a rate increase in order for power lines to be buried." Among customers willing to accept a rate increase, $12 per month is the average bill increase they are willing to accept in order for power lines to be buried.



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