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Witt Report: 'Significant Shortcomings' Found in CL&P's Performance

Malloy wants 'master plan' to determine how the state should work with utilities and municipalities for future events.

Witt Associates, which was tasked by the state with examining Connecticut Light & Power's performance following the devastating October snowstorm, released a report on Friday that outlined where the utility fell woefully short in its mission to restore power to more than 800,000 customers.

“Our expert expedited evaluation of this unprecedented event revealed significant shortcomings in preparedness, communications and public/private sector cooperation,” said Charlie Fisher, Vice President Preparedness Operations for Witt Associates. “Based on our findings and past experience, we believe, if implemented, the 27 recommendations for improvement will build a strong foundation allowing Connecticut communities to recover from such events in a more expedited and cooperative process.”

According to the report:

"CL&P was not prepared for an event of this size. The worst-case scenario in the company’s emergency response plan considered outages over 100,000 customers, or less than 10 percent of their total customer base. At peak, 809,097 customers — about two-thirds of its base — lost power as a result of the October snowstorm.

"CL&P did not lean forward by pre-staging adequate restoration resources in advance of the October 29 snowstorm; this delayed the recovery effort in the first days.  

"CL&P developed an internal stretch goal to restore power to 99 percent of all customers by Sunday, Nov. 6, even though they appeared to know it was more likely that they wouldn’t hit that goal until Wednesday, Nov. 9. Without vetting internally, the company announced this date as a public performance commitment.  This announcement, and a subsequent commitment to restore 99 percent of all customers in each of 149 municipalities by November 6, unnecessarily contributed to community angst and increased customer frustration and challenges for municipal governments."

In response, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he was glad to have the report in time to prepare for the winter season.

“This was an unprecedented storm that caused real hardship for many of our residents,” said Governor Malloy.  “But if something good came out of it, it’s that it’s giving us the chance to put in place an unprecedented level of response should it be necessary in the future.  Thanks to Witt Associates, we have a report that will help our public utilities and state government understand what went wrong, why it went wrong, and how to fix it.  And this is just the first step – what we need to do in the short term to get ready for the winter ahead.  I am still looking forward to the long term plan the Two Storm Panel will ultimately produce, as well as to a more detailed follow-up report from an outside consultant.”

The report also criticized state and local preparation for dealing with such an event:

“Public sector emergency response planning at the state and local levels does not adequately focus on actions needed in a significant power outage and assignment of responsibilities in mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery in utility disruption events.  State and local plans call for reports from power companies but do not address multi-agency actions or coordination needed to address energy disruption.”

As a result, Malloy said, he has asked the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection to come up with a "master plan" to determine "how the state should work with municipalities and the utilities should an event like this occur again."

“We have plans in place at the state and municipal levels, but there isn’t one, centralized master plan that shows how state government should interact amongst its own agencies, and how the state should coordinate its own activities with those of the utilities and municipal governments,” Malloy said.  “It’s a fair point. Pulling together that plan from what we have in various places is what I’m asking our State Director of Emergency Management Bill Hackett to do.”

The full report can be viewed on the attached PDF, or at the Witt Associates website.

Jim G. December 02, 2011 at 05:05 PM
Gosh, ya think?
Peter Dinella December 02, 2011 at 06:33 PM
When complicated and serious events happen like this, you can eventually trace it back to one major cause: POOR LEADERSHIP. CL&P should take a hard look at all it's leadership in all principle areas and make appropriate "adjustments." Good leadership yields good performance. Also, reports about action plans and goal attainment at CL&P should be issued at least every 6 months for public scrutiny. This is Management 101. It is not that complicated.
Jim G. December 02, 2011 at 06:58 PM
I think you're understating the problem, Peter. It's not just "poor" leadership, it's willfully bad (even malicious) leadership that has profit at any cost and personal gain in the form of a hearty exit package as its goals. Any idiot in a tie can go into a company and slash costs on everything that doesn't contribute to the short-term revenue stream. We've seen it happen in countless companies, most of which no longer exist, because the result, after the profits have been taken and the genius in the top office moves on, is inevitably collapse. The only sourly amusing part of all this is that Mr. Butler's house of cards fell in on him before he could get out of town. Since we can't tolerate a "collapse" of this vital part of our infrastructure, the various investigations and committees need to have real teeth, and use them to make sure the rot is removed and the problems are genuinely fixed. It's an aside from the job of getting us a more reliable power provider, but I'll be very interested to see the results of the investigations into CL&P's profit structure, which appears to have exceeded their mandated limits (before rate cuts and other returns to the customer base) for most of the last 8-10 years.
Peter Dinella December 02, 2011 at 11:17 PM
Jim, I spent 40 years in Fortune 100 companies. The intentions of poor leadership look like more than it actually is to some, including you. Poor leadership is poor leadership. They screwed up big time. You can attribute gross negligence and evil intent after the fact, but it is generally the result of just good-old-fashoined poor leadership. Missing this fact leads one into demogogy rather than understanding. Sorry about that! I am not understating the problem - I'm just being rationale about it. The leadership at CL&P screwed up big time. I am as frustrated as you, but don't assume these people were idiots and greedy top-execs. And don't count on politicians to fix this, too.
Mike December 06, 2011 at 02:21 PM
The Witt report also indicated that State and Local governements were not properly prepared. So where are the villagers with torches and pitchforks who should be chasing Malloy out of his job?

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