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Who Gets Power First?

Council gives list to Pepco, but will it matter?

In the aftermath of Hurricane Isabel and other storms in late 2003, public officials have tried to learn from the different responses of emergency personnel, and of utilities.

One issue often cited is that of people who live in elder- care facilities or group-care facilities being left without power for an extended period.

County Council compiled a list of such facilities, including health-care facilities, assisted-living facilities, nursing homes, group homes for the vulnerable and home-care providers.

The 26-page compilation will be given to the various utilities to help prioritize the process of restoring power.

“Pepco simply didn’t know where the people who need the most assistance live,” said Councilmember George Leventhal (D-At large) at a press conference announcing the release of the list.

But Pepco already maintains a list of such places, said Robert Dobkin, Pepco spokesperson. “We’re aware of the critical-care facilities,” he said.

Dobkin said that Pepco will review the list that the Council has provided and will compare it with their list in order to be sure that it is comprehensive.

Councilmember Mike Knapp (D-2) said that the list can be used to help Pepco when deciding how to restore power, noting that facilities that care for the “vulnerable population” are “one of the very clear priorities.”

But such a prioritization is not likely, said Dobkin. “If they felt that all of these facilities are going to be restored first, it’s going to delay restoration to others,” he said.

Pepco’s first priorities are public emergency facilities, such as hospitals, fire and police stations and 911 call centers. After that it attempts to restore power to the largest number of customers at a time.

The number of facilities that are on the Council’s list will render it almost meaningless for Pepco. “There are probably facilities on every circuit we have,” he said.

In order to restore power to these places, a complete restructuring of the way Pepco restores power would need to be implemented, but he left that open as a possibility. “We’ll work with the community,” Dobkin said.