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PWC Preps for Storm Season

PWC Preps for Storm Season; Encourages Customers to Prep Too
June 10, 2021

by Michael Futch

So here we go again. Another Atlantic hurricane season to weather through — a long spell over the summer that traditionally runs from June through November.

At least one named tropical storm has formed in the Atlantic prior to June 1 — which is the official start of the season — every year for the past half-dozen years.

Fayetteville PWC reminds everyone that now is the time to start thinking about how you can prepare for the 2021 hurricane season. On their website, PWC has posted various sites for checklists, planning tips, FAQs and other resources for its service territory to help customers prepare for hurricanes and other emergencies.

This season is expected to be another active Atlantic hurricane season with as many as 10 hurricanes forming, according to the federal government.

“We’re prepared really at a moment’s notice for any emergency,” said Elaina Ball, the recently named CEO and general manager of Fayetteville PWC.

The free PWC 2021 Storm Guide is now available.  Besides being distributed directly to PWC customers , the guide will be available online. Not only does it contain information that pertains to electric and water, but there’s an important added section on flooding.

“It’s not just about the utility service,” Ball said. “It’s really about our community. Making sure they are prepared for everything.”

As for PWC, Ball said the company is really prepared year-round for any kind of storm emergency. “Our crews are a 24/7 operation,” she added. “We need to make sure that, not only on the power side but on the waste-water side, that our systems are prepared for extreme weather. We work year-round to conduct maintenance and make sure we have tools, equipment and materials to be able to respond during a significant storm event like a hurricane.

“We’re really always on,” Ball added. “Our team works and lives in the community which is an added benefit during storm season. It helps reduce our outages when storms do come upon us so we’re not dispatching crews from other communities. We live and work here so that’s an added advantage of PWC and our workforce.”

PWC already has an emergency plan of operations in place and is ready to implement it at a moment’s notice.

“Should there be a hurricane,” she said, “we have an incident command structure that we stand to be able to respond to a hurricane to ensure that, first and foremost, puts the safety of the public and our employees at the forefront. But also that we can direct operations during those emergency events in a sufficient manner, making sure we get response to the highest areas of need to get the majority of customers back quickly and that we can provision our crews to get them what they need to get the power back on.”

The municipal utility, Ball said, is continuously looking at ways to improve response time. “And I think one of the tools we have that really is going to help us during major storm events is our outage management system.  We did just recently upgrade and this system allows the utility and customers to be able see real-time information relative to the status of our power.”

As a customer, folks can sign up with the outage management system through the PWC online customer portal and get outage notifications even during normal times. Not only, she emphasized, during troubling hurricane events.

“If there’s a power disruption in your neighborhood and you’re out of power,” Ball said, “you will receive a message, and that will also notify you as soon as the power’s turned back on. At a higher level, the utility can see through the outage management system how many customers are out in an area based on how many outages are showing up in the system. It gives us a better idea of where to pinpoint trouble maybe, and that gets our crews to the areas where they can troubleshoot and make repairs more quickly.”

Customers are encouraged to have a plan in advance of a looming hurricane.

Jon Rynne, the chief officer for the PWC electric system, recommends that citizens have a plan for not dealing with power or possibly having a loss of water/wastewater facilities during a hurricane or in the days that follow its wrath.

Some of the general precautions often heard from Emergency Management, he said, “are definitely about buttoning up the house if you can. All the things that can become projectiles that can damage your property even further. From the other perspective of having all your things organized so that if you need to evacuate in the case of a flood or something of that nature, have them together so you can go before it’s too late.”

Have non-perishable foods, including canned goods, on hand to eat, Rynne said, so that when the refrigerator is out and customers lose power they still have something they can use to feed themselves and the family. Obviously, having a supply of water and be sure to follow guidelines for how much water you need for how many people you have in your home.

In addition, consider putting together a “go box” with any important documents and medications that you can simply toss in your vehicle and leave if there’s a need to evacuate.

In terms of more things specific to the electric system, Rynne said, people need to know what they can and can’t do with a generator: “Not back-feeding with your generator. If folks don’t know or don’t have the provisions in place that can safely inter-tie a generator with their home, they should not inter-tie them.

“They should use extension cords and just plug in the really critical loads in your house so that you can get through the really critical loads that you need in your house to get through the period that you don’t have power,” he advised. “Because it becomes a very dangerous situation if you back-feed the high-voltage system, and we’re trying to do restoration efforts. It obviously presents quite a hazard and when the guys do restore power, if you are in that condition, you’re going to have a lot of damage to the service on your house and that generator when we restore.”

Generators should be installed per code and properly, according to Rynne. When people take shortcuts, he noted, that’s when it gets a lot more dangerous.

“That is an issue we always run into,” he said, “particularly if there’s a long outage and people get to the point where they just can’t stand it without having the generator running.”

Another suggestion is that people do their routine tree trimming and removal that they should do in their yards. That’s because when a hurricane rolls through, anything of that nature comes down.

“So, unfortunately, the utility can only clear trees within the right of ways and easements that they have,” said Rynne. “And if people have dangerous trees in their yards, the hurricane’s going to bring it down and it can cause damage to the system and cause outages. So there’s a lot of pieces and parts to it.”

Carolyn Justice-Hinson, spokeswoman for Fayetteville PWC, also said so much can be prevented with the right planning.

The utility’s customers with medical equipment eligible for the medical priority program can be made a priority in emergency weather situations, she said. This requires a doctor’s certification. Call to find out more about the program.