Posted by Zara Brunner
The Baldrige Cheermudgeon is rubbing off on me. It’s my time to rant. For those of you who live in the Montgomery County Maryland area or who heard about our barrage of power outages, you can probably relate.
This summer has brought the DC metro area record high temperatures, a 3.6 magnitude earthquake (on my birthday!), tornado-like winds, flash flooding, flying tree limbs, and powerful thunderstorms. Some may say nature is trying to tell us something. One thing is certain: customers without lights or air conditioning have been trying to tell their power company something.
Let me give you an example. Following a one minute, intense thunderstorm in July, it took two days for my power to be restored. Okay two days is a long time to be without power (though many were in the dark much longer), but at least everything was back to normal right? Not quite. Once the power was restored, neighbors noticed a small fire where some tree branches were touching the wire and called the fire department. The firemen came out, acknowledged the fire, and pretty much said “Call the power company.” Apparently, unless the tree caught on fire, there was nothing the fire department could do. So they left. When we returned home and heard this from our neighbors we were rather surprised, but did as advised and called our power company. Customer service agreed that this was a potentially dangerous situation and they would send a crew soon. Thank goodness! As a mother of young children, I certainly wouldn’t want electrical fires burning unabated in my front yard for very long. If the fire department can’t help, then surely the power company will get right on it. Right? Well, not so much. After at least half a dozen follow-up calls over the course of a week (yes: a WEEK!), we finally heard from customer service that we were one of 3,000 people on their list who had similar tree limbs-touching wires-causing fire situations. (Yep: 3,000!) Well fortunately nature took care of us, as the tree branches eventually burned to a crisp, broke off and fell to the wires below–no longer posing a fire risk. And, despite assurances that the power company would come out to safely remove the limbs (by when, next July?), we took matters into our own hands and hired someone to get rid of them.
So all this leads me to conclude that there is a great big opportunity for my utility company to look at parts of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence to examine:
1. How do you govern and fulfill your societal responsibilities? (Category 1.2)
2. How do you develop your strategy? (Category 2.1)
3. How do you engage customers to serve their needs and build relationships and how do you obtain and use information from your customers? (Category 3.1 and 3.2), and last but not least:
4. How do you manage your information, organizational knowledge, and information technology. And in the event of an emergency, how do you ensure the continued availability of hardware or software systems? (Category 4.2)
There are likely other areas to consider, but this would be a good start. In the meantime, sales in home generators, candles, flashlights, and batteries are going up and we all should update our emergency preparedness plans.