GAITHERSBURG, Md. – Pepco and its service are developing a bad reputation in Montgomery County and among MoCo residents. We’re getting to the point that we expect any storm will knock out power to our grocery stores, our homes, our workplaces, and our schools. Storm? Sorry, make that a strong breeze.
And it’s not just our perception.
“The real issue is they are at the bottom percentile on outages when the sun is shining,” said Nancy Floreen (D-At Large), Montgomery County Council President. According to the Washington Post, Pepco ranks in the bottom 25 percentile among service providers using two reliability measures.
Governor Martin O’Malley’s spokesman Shaun Adamec told the Washington Post that despite Pepco’s recently unveiled plans to counter the recurring problem, he had concerns that they wouldn’t follow through unless regulators put pressure on them.
Hold on, I’d better save my article. I never know when the computer will crash thanks to Pepco’s outstanding, expensive service.
During the snowpocalyse as we called the February 2010 storms, I heard many horror stories of power outages, though I was fortunate not to experience that problem then. I can’t say that’s been the case this summer, as tropical storms have caused downed tree limbs, tree limbs that should be trimmed, to disrupt service. I wandered through my flickering apartment during one storm wondering if I’d lose all my recently bought food. Again, I lucked out overall, though work and schools shut down for the day.
Living just outside our nation’s capital in a very affluent part of the country, one would expect the region to be well-prepared for emergencies. I’m sorry to say that is simply not the case. Response times tend to be slow, outages are frequent, and prevention efforts are simply lagging. A generator wouldn’t necessarily be an unwise purchase for homeowners in the area.
All of that said, is it entirely fair to blame Pepco for every problem related to it’s service? Possibly not. As Germantown resident Thomas Altvater points out in this Washington Post opinion piece, local residents with NIMBY issues, a greedy county, and a toothless regulatory commission are all contributing to the overall poor response time. It’s hard to complain about the trees that knock down power lines if your neighbors aren’t letting those power lines get cut. At times, you have to take a little responsibility for your own neighborhood; during my work run commute, I have seen unmowed public spaces and overgrown weeds neighboring homes in which it is very clear residents don’t feel they should be bothered to care (or possibly even complain and request help) for upkeep, even if it is directly adjacent to their own home.
We need to hold the utility responsible, but we also have to do our part to try to make the region safer and better prepared. For my part, I have candles, emergency supplies, and a communication plan with work in case power outages mean I need to stay home. I’ve also learned not to fully stock the fridge- just in case.
Thomas Altvater, “Helping Pepco keep the lights on” Washington Post
Annys Shin, “Maryland officials are skeptical of Pepco’s plan to deal with future outages” Washington Post