PG&E Performance Survey

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Posted by Annie in Opinion, Outdoors on November 26, 2010

Shortly before our power was restored last night. PG&E called with an automated survey to find out how we felt they handled the recent outage. Our power came back on minutes after their survey call, which was interesting timing to be sure.

Electrical Repairs

I’d like to look at this outage a little closer, perhaps PG&E is serious about providing better customer service, so I will take this opportunity to give my opinion on the chance that someone might read it and care.

For starters people who live in this area know that we are prone to power outages, especially during the winter months. Most of us are somewhat prepared but just as PG&E’s performance has room for improvement, many Twain Harte residents can do better as well.

When our power first went out, we took it in stride, fully expecting the power to be out for a few hours or perhaps even a day or so, which is normal for our area. We sat around the house and played Legos, snacked and basically enjoyed spending some quality family time.

We especially appreciated PG&E’s extended outage number. Even though the PG&E customer service folks didn’t have a great deal of information available to them, it was comforting knowing that a real live person was just a phone call away. I was able to get right through on their extended outage line every time I called, except once. (I believe I called about ten times, normally twice a day.)

After several days, I discovered the online PG&E Outage Map. It would have been helpful to know about that page sooner, as it did provide a little additional information. Another day later, I had the sense to ask the customer service representative what our “Outage Number” was. I also found that information helpful and I wish I had had that little detail earlier.

I was calling to find out how long we could expect to be without electricity, so that I could plan ahead a little. We no longer have a local gas station, so we needed to plan how large of a generator we would need and make plans to keep it fueled. I needed to be able to plan for meals — like Thanksgiving.

My husband worked on a Forest Service software project years ago. PG&E could learn a few things from the Forest Service.

You see, what PG&E wasn’t telling us is that their crews were spread very thin. Many areas could have been restored earlier (in my opinion) had PG&E had enough manpower to even locate the source of the problems. I notice that once the PG&E trucks arrived in our area, the problem was repaired within hours.

I heard a couple of rumors that disturbed me. One was that some of the outages were not repaired earlier because they couldn’t find the downed lines and another was that they had to order parts before they could fix the problem. Now, I’ve done a little wiring myself, so I can’t imagine them not having the parts they need on hand for an emergency. Even if it was a circuit board issue. Having worked as a gas station manager for many years, I know we have emergency repair people for something as obscure as that.

When a fire breaks out, the Forest Service contracts with local vendors for tools, instead of carting around axes, shovels, hammers and such. Why doesn’t PG&E contract with local electrical contractors to help pick up the slack in an emergency? The locals would be familiar with the area and able to round up parts locally, in a short amount of time.

It would also be helpful if the website contained more details. Our power was back on before the website even listed crews as being onsite. Once PG&E’s automated system even called to tell us our power was back on, when in fact it wasn’t. Afterwards, I checked their website and they listed our outage as beginning at the exact time I had called to notify them that our power was not restored.

This caused even more stress because I had no way of knowing if we were getting pushed to the bottom of the list, because PG&E didn’t know that our power had been out for days.

I was also frustrated when two of their representatives informed me that they were “working on the problem,” when in fact, they had not even arrived onsite and wouldn’t for two more days. It is not nice to lie to the people who are paying your salaries.

Electrical outages can be expected, but how we respond to the challenge makes all the difference in the world.

Our family is in the process of evaluating our own emergency procedures. We are picking up items that will make our life easier because we know that this is just the beginning of this winter season with possibly more wicked winter storms on the way. Being prepared can make all the difference in reducing stress levels and weathering a storm with ease.

If you don’t have an emergency plan, don’t wait. Make sure everyone knows his or her job and you know where your supplies are stored. I know our next winter storm, we will be better prepared. We did a pretty good job this time around but there is still room for improvement. How did your family manage through the storm?

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