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Thursday, September 18, 2008

There but for the grace of God go I

According to Wikipedia, those words were first uttered by John Bradford while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. According to legend, he was watching a criminal going to his execution. For the last week, we have been uttering those words as we watch utility crews from Galveston to Owensboro to Louisville, and on to Cincinnati, battle to return power to hundreds of thousands of homes. Galveston seems far away and easy for us to ignore, but Owensboro and Louisville are within a hundred miles of us. We cannot ignore what is going on there. This article is from Friday's Courier Journal and it offers all of us plenty of warning about what could be happening right here in Glasgow.

The lessons are very clear for the EPB and we are scrambling trying to put those lessons into action (well, scrambling as much as is possible while we are on our knees giving thanks for the close calls as opposed to a direct hit). The lessons include a reaffirmation of the need for us to aggressively trim trees. This is one thing we were already doing, so we hope that the weight of this lesson will fall squarely on those who have been vociferously protesting our aggressive trimming practices. If anyone needs any more explanation than that found in the Courier Journal for our decision to trim trees so radically, then they are never going to be convinced of anything. We are also learning a lot from the words of LG&E customers in their responses to LG&E’s efforts on the Courier Journal web site. It seems that the biggest complaints folks have about their efforts relate to LG&E’s failure to adequately inform the community on where they are working and what progress they are making. Since we happen to own and operate a broadband network and have the capacity to control web sites and television media as well, we are hatching a new plan for how we could keep our customers better informed about our progress when a disaster like this hits Glasgow, and, mark my words, it will.

We will be redoubling our efforts to establish working relationships with other utilities so we can get help when we need it. We will be having new conversations with all of the other local utilities and DES folks to make sure we know how to communicate during a crisis. We will be working with them to review our priority loads and work out plans to make sure that we all agree on which facilities should get power first after a disaster. We will be working to establish relationships with local tree trimmers, fuel providers, motels, groceries, and restaurants to make sure the community can have the basics; like food and water, after a sweeping disaster like that which has struck Louisville. In short, we are watching them closely and trying to learn from their mistakes.

There are lessons for each of you as well. Have enough food, water, and fuel on hand to get you through a week without electricity. Have working flashlights, batteries, and a battery operated radio. No matter what plans we make for restoring power, an outage lasting this long is still very possible. You too should learn from the lessons being learned in Louisville. Then, together we can all plan for the disaster we hope will not come. For me, well, I have to get back down on my knees and keep offering thanks.

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