Letter – SEC needs to make changes to handle future outages

Published 8:21 am Sunday, February 28, 2021

To the Editor:

We moved to central Virginia in 2003, and we have become accustomed to the occasional power outages experienced as customers of Southside Electric Cooperative. However, the loss of electrical power during the recent ice storm finally requires us to ask some difficult questions.

When power went out about noon on Saturday, I called in to Southside to report it, and the tape recording that I heard told me that this was not going to be anything like the typical one- or two-hour event, with as many as 60,000 customers affected.

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Like many residents of this area, we have a small generator to provide minimal continuation of electric power. We were able to power our freezers, water pump and lighting, but not heating. We hunkered down to await power return. As day turned to night, we shut down our generator and climbed into bed under many blankets.

In the morning, still without power, I called Southside again, and heard the same message. I drove over to their regional office in Crewe, expecting to find it a beehive of activity. Unfortunately, I found the building locked up, with only one lady in the drive-thru window who was very patient but had no new information for us about the process of returning electrical power. Finally accepting the inevitable, we fled to our daughter’s home in Chesterfield which still had power.

We were among the fortunate few who had our power restored late on Wednesday, while many homes were still in the dark.

This experience leads me to propose two changes to the management of Southside Electric Cooperative.

For future outages, establish a crisis center, manned by your administrative personnel, equipped both with radio communication with your line crews and a telephone bank for communicating with customers experiencing outages.

Consider burying your primary lines (and some secondary lines). I know it will be costly, but when you compare that cost with what you will eventually pay for restoring overhead lines, you may find it cost-effective.

John Jamieson