Don’t be forgotten in a power outage

Published 4:43 pm Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sometimes homes off of major roads are passed up when the power goes out due to miscommunication.

One street was missed in restoration efforts of the June 9 and 10 power outages, leaving one group of residents without power longer than their neighbors on an adjacent street. Coast Electric is working to prevent future occurrences of similar situations.

The outages stemmed from severe storm activity that weekend, according to a press release from Coast Electric. During that outage about 6,000 customers were without power after three substations went down.

Hancock County resident Juanita Barios said her power went out at about 3:30 p.m. June 9, and did not come back on until the following morning, even after repeated phone calls to the company concerning her situation. She and her neighbors went without power for 16 hours. Barios said she lives on a road off of Anna Road, which was without power for only three to five hours.

“We were left in the dark,” Barios said.

Power on Barios’ street was not restored until 7:30 a.m. June 10, when the repair man came. When Barios asked him what took so long he said he was not dispatched until 30 minutes prior to his arrival.

Barios did say that at one point she got a call from the Coast Electric automated system asking if her power had been restored. However, her cordless phone was without power and her rotary phone would not grant her the access to the proper response, which was push one for no. Barios said her intention is not to bad mouth her electric company, but she wants to know how to avoid similar problems in the future.

“We want to know what went wrong,” Barios said. “I don’t see anything wrong with that.”

Coast Electric Communications Specialist April Lollar said that while customers using rotary phones are rare, the resolution would be to wait for the Coast Electric phone system to send the customer to the voice-mail service. Lollar said that if no button is pushed after a certain amount of time the company’s automated phone service will send the customer to a messaging service. At that point a message for someone to call the customer back can be left, which will be sent to the dispatcher.

To solve some of the issues Barios and other customers may face with poor communication between electric provider and customer, Lollar said Coast Electric is working on adding voice recognition to their message service.

“We don’t want to leave anyone who doesn’t have the latest technology in the dark,” Lollar said. “We don’t want people to be without power as long as she was.”