We Need to Communicate Better During Outages: Oncor - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

We Need to Communicate Better During Outages: Oncor

Power provider says controversial smart meters will improve its response to outages



    We Need to Communicate Better During Outages: Oncor
    Getty Images
    Oncor says its controversial smart meters will help improve its response to outages.

    Dallas city officials grilled Oncor Electric Delivery about its response to widespread power outages after last month's record snowstorm.

    The power company said the storm that dropped more than a foot of snow at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport knocked out power to nearly 500,000 customers.

    In its presentation Wednesday to the City Council, Oncor said that while the company restored power safely and in a timely fashion, it needs to needs to work on better communicating with customers.

    Dallas residents complained that Oncor did not provide enough information to those affected by the outages.

    Oncor on the Hot Seat at City Hall

    [DFW] Oncor on the Hot Seat at City Hall
    Angry Customers left without power after record snowfall put Oncor on the hot seat at Dallas City Hall.
    (Published Wednesday, March 3, 2010)

    "There was not a hotline to call if you were still without power," Celia Walker said. "I called the City Council. I called 311. I called several people to try to let them know."

    Oncor said its antiquated system is part of the problem. But the company said its rollout of its controversial smart meters will help.

    "When we have our smart meters deployed, it will work a little bit different, because we'll know when your lights are out," Allyn Giles said. "But right now, it's driven by customer calls."

    Oncor said the digital meters will notify the company within 15 minutes of a power outage. Crews will finish installing the new meters by the end of 2012.

    "Citizens very clearly communicated that they can deal with power outages, as long as they had a better understanding of that timetable and the complexity of restoring power," City Councilman David Neumann said.

    Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway suggested the company provide people with a magnet for their refrigerator that would have information on what to do in the case of outage with phone numbers to call.

    "We don't take any of this lightly," said Debbie Dennis of Oncor. "We're working quickly and diligently to both address our communication and the customer experience during major events like occurred."

    The power provider also said it needs to be better at communicating with customers, city officials and media about its progress on power restoration and its estimated timelines.

    Oncor said it will also look into utilizing the city's 311 system better in the future and will educate customers at outreach events on how to best deal with the company during a power outage.

    But the pledges didn't ease Walker's frustrations. She said she was without electricity for 13 days and found out it was back on when a neighbor called.

    "That is too long for any citizen to be without power," she said.

    Get More:
    Read Oncor's briefing to the City Council