Power Outages: Q&A with DTE Rep
DTE representative Scott Simons discusses the recent outages and explains how restoration is prioritized.
More than 6,000 DTE Energy customers in Royal Oak were without power at one point last week after severe thunderstorms hit the area July 4. Tuesday morning, the number of customers in the city still without power is down to 175.
The storms affected more than 300,000 customers in southeast Michigan and caused more than 1,000 downed power lines. Service has now been restored to more than 98 percent of those who lost power.
Here's what DTE spokesman Scott Simons had to say about the recent power outage in an interview with Patch on Monday afternoon.
Q&A with DTE
How do you feel the restoration process has gone overall?
Simons: We had a lot of challenges with this restoration. We had four separate storms that had us readjusting our priorities. Since the same weather conditions were going on on a regional basis it also limited our ability to call in crews from outside the state. Other than that, we restored almost 325,000 customers since the storms began.
How do you prioritize restoration? Does power ever get diverted from residential areas to a business district?
Simons: No. What we look at in our priority system is public health and safety. A fire house, hospitals. Then we look at restoring as many customers in one fix ... If we have a circuit with 2,000 customers on it, that will have priority over a circuit that has 900 customers on it. What happens at the end of the restoration process is that you would have small pockets of customers ... that are the last to be restored.
Why would power go out days after the storm?
Simons: There are a lot of different reasons for power outages. One is obviously storms. There's also underground cable failure, equipment failure, a car hits a pole. As a result of a storm you could have a power line weakened, or a branch on a power line that doesn't actually have an effect until after the storm blows through. In the aftermath of a storm you get some additional problems that way.
Could the new outages be related to the process of restoring other customers?
Simons: No. They're on different circuits.
How many downed power lines were there, and how does DTE respond to them?
Simons: There were over 1,000 power lines that fell as a result of the storms. With restoration processes taking days it could take days to cover the wires. But we have workers who comprise public safety teams and they'll go out and make sure that our customers are safe from downed power lines. They'll go out and especially if a power line is down in a backyard they'll let the homeowner know to keep your pets indoors, keep your kids indoors, don't touch anything that a power line may be in contact with. Their job is to keep our customers safe in an area around that downed power line.
Why do some cities take longer to restore than other cities?
Simons: It's about circuits and how many customers are on a circuit. We don't favor [cities]. If there are a lot of trees, that definitely adds to the storm situation. Two thirds of our storm-related power outages are due to trees.
Will credits be available?
Simons: It depends on the situation and how long the customer has been out. This is falling under a catastrophic storm. There's information on our web site about that. The threshold is less for day-to-day outages than for big storms like this one. [Get information on claims and credits here.]
How do you calculate restoration time estimates?
Generally we depend on our customers to let us know when they have a power outage so we can analyze how extensive the power outage is. We'll establish estimates based on the current number of outages. If another storm blows through that sets up a whole new set of priorities. We try to maintain the balance between getting those larger circuits back and looking at how long customers have been out. In this case with three or four different storms your priorities are changing and so those estimates will change.
How would you respond to concerns from residents about how long it takes to restore power?
Simons: We have 340,000 customers affected by the storm. We've been working around the clock, our linemen have been working 16-hour shifts in extremely hot conditions. It's not like we're not restoring customers. We are restoring customers. The number of customers that are experiencing power outages goes down by the hour. Certainly we understand that it's difficult, especially in triple-digit temperatures, to live without electricity and we certainly appreciate our customers' patience during all of this. We don't staff at a level where [enough staff are always available] when a catastrophic storm does hit. Our customers wouldn't want to pay rates that would have that many linemen and personnel on duty to address those occasional situations. So what we do is we look for the help of other linemen from other utilities out of state, around the state and the unfortunate thing in this particular storm situation is the region as a whole is experiencing the same problems. So as a result utilities in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois - their linemen were working on the same kind of problems as ours. We did get more than 100 linemen late last week to help the effort and that's really helped our customers get back sooner.