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Pepco's Graham Is Committed to Keeping the Lights On

WI Staff | 2/29/2012, 9:58 p.m.

Thomas Graham, regional Pepco president, said his father advised him early on to work for the government or work for a utility company. "And as I just completed my 25th year," he said, "so, I did listen to my dad."

The following is a continuation (Part ll) of our conversation with Graham who sat down with the publisher and staff of The Washington Informer earlier this month. Among other things, Graham shared how he personally felt about a blistering 2010 Washington Post analysis that reported his company "ranks near the bottom in keeping the power on and restoring it once it goes out."

Graham: I never thought I would be with an organization this long. So, I have a lot of love for what I do and the people I work with and my neighbors and friends and family that are in this area--that's my personal commitment to what is going on. So, it did hurt to read the [Washington Post] article. Day-to-day reliability we own and there are things we have to do. When a major event comes in, there are very few things we can do. We respond to what takes place. Back in 2010, we had probably about 4 or 5 storms. They came in back to back to back to back and unfortunately it hit the same group of customers each time in Montgomery County. They were always hit the hardest.

So, do I have an appreciation for the frustration that they feel? I absolutely do. Is there something we can do to prevent a microburst [a sudden violent weather phenomenon that is difficult to predict] or a snowstorm? We can't do that. Is there something we can do to prevent thousands of wires from coming down? There is very little we can do because these wires are coming down because trees have been uprooted.

Now, we do all the trees trimming you want, but when a fully-grown tree decides to come down because the ground is saturated, it's going to come down. But our responsibility--the communications with our customers had to improve. We had problems with the technology on our website which was unacceptable. We had problems with some of the technology that provided restoration times with our customers--that was unacceptable. If you were to call in and find out if your service is out in August and your time of restoration was in October, you would have some concerns about that. We had a technology glitch. We addressed it right away, unfortunately, that information did not get to some of the customers. Those are the things that we own.

WI: Now, that we've moved from analog phones to digital phones and the electricity goes out-- you have no phone service. Over the years with the technology changing, the means of communication is changing. So, being able to get that message out...

Graham: I understand where you're going with that. There is an accountability on our part and there is also responsibility on our customers' part to prepare themselves for an emergency event. Everyone is encouraged to have a hard line. Today, it's all wireless phones in the house. When you don't have service, none of those phones work. So, old-school, plug-in-the-wall, you need one of those. We will start collecting more information on emails, more information on cell phones and we are looking at other means to communicate. We're also looking at should we be on an alert system similar to the District, similar to Montgomery County. We do social media now. They have me tweeting once a month. There are some intriguing comments out there. Another good thing we have is a customer advocate--that is Felicia Greer.