AlertDC sent out an email notice just before 12:30 on Tuesday that Pepco had 1,900 customers without power in the Petworth area. (Pepco didn't send the message, AlertDC did.)
Date: Tue, Jul 5, 2016 at 12:27 PM
Subject: Power Outage (Petworth)
This is an important message from the District of Columbia AlertDC system.
Pepco reports a power outage in the District, impacting approximately 1900 customers in the Petworth neighborhood. There’s no estimated restoration time is at this time. Please take all precautions.
I checked on the Pepco site, and sure enough, it showed 1,925 customers were without power "as of 10am" for a "planned outage." I tweeted at Pepco at 12:54pm about the outage and published an article. I wanted to know why residents didn't know about the outage.
(Read the article for the background, but here's the spoiler: unless you register a medical need, apparently they don't think they need to tell you about planned outages.)
Pepco finally responded via Twitter at 7:19pm that it was a mistake, and that only 16 customers lost power, and that those customers had been notified (no way for me to verify that). Pepco's explanation for the 1,909 customer difference: "Outage system initially reported wrong number." They followed up in a subsequent tweet that the "system counted all customers on the feeder, not just those affected by the work." (A feeder is the main line from the substation that services between 1,500 - 2,000 customers, according to a Pepco spokesperson.)
I asked Pepco (again, via Twitter) why it took more than 6 hours to respond to inquiries. They've asked me to call their media team for press comments. When I did (a local 202 number), I got their voice mail. I'll update if they call back with anything worth sharing again.
Update: Received a call from a Pepco spokesperson, who confirmed the 1,900+ number was a mistake. He said that only 16 were affected, and they were notified by "door hanger." The planned work was a transformer upgrade. Oddly, it seems Pepco doesn't use their main Twitter account to respond to customers quickly. He said with 280,000 customers in DC alone, the @pepcoconnects Twitter account fields many inquiries. He suggested customers call customer care if they have questions, download their mobile app or try Twitter.
If you were one of the 16 customers affected, let me know if Pepco notified you.
Let's hope Pepco fixes "the system" in the future, so that hundreds or thousands of people don't fear coming home to a thawed out freezer next time. Hopefully Pepco discovers a way to notify customers of outages instead of relying upon AlertDC. As one Petworth News reader said to me, between phone, text and email, there's ways to inform customers.
- Did you know about the Pepco "planned power outage" for Petworth? (July 5, 2016)