O&R UNIT TO SPEED PUBLIC SAFETY REPAIRS IN MAJOR STORMS

O&R Press Release

unnamed2Orange and Rockland Utilities (O&R) President and CEO Tim Cawley on Tuesday detailed the responsibilities of the company’s Priority Response Group (PRG), a storm response unit that aims to address community public safety and critical infrastructure emergencies during major storms and called the group’s formation “an important step in working with the communities we serve to return them to normal as soon as possible after a destructive weather event.”

Working together with local officials, PRG will clear downed wires first on the major roads designated as a priority by the community. That will help the DPW open those roads sooner. PRG also will restore power first to locations prioritized by local officials as key to maintaining important basic services from health care facilities to pumping stations. That will help the community to continue to operate.

Cawley said, “PRG was created in cooperation with local government, emergency services and public works leaders and is based on lessons learned from the substantial community destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy.”

He added, “This unit’s success rests on timely cooperation and response. The PRG work will proceed in tandem with that of the local communities. It’s driven by local public officials who will tell us what they need from O&R, and where they need it to help get the community back to normal. That work is PRG’s mission.”

PRG’s efforts are part of a broader program which O&R says will reduce electric and gas damage and outages from major storms, help respond and repair storm damage more quickly and communicate information about those recovery efforts more accurately on a variety of platforms.

Reduce Outages

O&R plans to spend approximately $15 million this year to provide additional storm protection at specific strategic electric and gas system locations in an effort to mitigate the impact of severe weather on O&R’s energy system.

This marks the second year of a three-year, $35.5-million construction program designed to make O&R’s energy systems more storm resilient. O&R spent approximately $10 million in 2013 on energy system improvements including building additional electric circuits, undergrounding strategic locations where multiple overhead circuits meet on distribution poles and expanding tree-trimming clearances at critical service locations.

Among the electric projects O&R plans to complete in 2014 in Rockland are:

  • Clarkstown. This project replaces a dozen wooden transmission line poles with steel poles to help further protect the system that brings electricity into the O&R service area. ($5 million).
  • Clarkstown. This project expands O&R’s Smart Grid pilot by increased automation and better fault isolation by deploying additional devices per circuit. This helps make outages smaller and speeds repair.($4.4 million)
  • Stony Point and Haverstraw. In addition to replacing dozens of existing poles with new poles of thicker, stronger design, O&R will be installing spacer cable, a robust and resilient alternative to traditional open wire circuits along 8,500 feet of Willow Grove Road. This project will add significant resilience to the electricity feed to Jackie Jones Tower, a critical location for emergency services radio and cellular communication throughout Rockland County. ($750,000)

In addition, O&R is building a new cable and conduit system on Crooked Hill Road to place overhead wires underground and run them beneath Rt. 304 to further protect a critical point in the electric system from destructive weather. O&R also plans to construct a supplemental circuit to further support quicker service restoration. Those two projects, totaling $585,000, will improve service reliability to Clarkstown, Orangetown, Chestnut Ridge and Pearl River.

Earlier this year, O&R completed two similar projects on Montebello Road. Those two projects, totaling $725,000, will help improve service reliability to Montebello, Wesley Hills, Ramapo and Suffern.

In 2013, O&R completed a new cable and conduit system on Blauvelt Road to place overhead wires underground and run them beneath Rt. 304 to further protect a critical point in the electric system from destructive weather. O&R also constructed a supplemental circuit to further support quicker service restoration. Those two projects, totaling $775,000, will improve service to Clarkstown and Orangetown.

A similar pair of projects, totaling $350,000, on Williams Road will improve service to Spring Valley, Orangetown and Chestnut Ridge.

Among the gas projects O&R completed in 2013 and are due to be completed in 2014

  • Pascack Road Remote Operated Valve Installation. Plans call for the installation of a remote operated valve (ROV) to allow for remotely controlled and rapid system isolation in the event of an emergency. The ROV also serves to reduce the number of customers affected should there be an emergency on this line. This project has just been completed at a cost of $800,000.
  • Suffern. The existing gas gate station is being replaced with a new building and raised 10 feet to protect it from flooding. This project is in progress and is expected to be completed by the end of November at a cost of $600,000.
  • Pearl River. A berm and a more robust fence were installed to protect the gas gate station facilities from flooding damage/washout. This project was completed at a cost of $50,000.
    • Stony Point, BaMar, Grassy Point, Piermont, Suffern. Excess flow valve installation has been completed in Stony Point, Grassy Point and Piermont. Excess flow valves automatically shut off gas if it exceeds normal volume limits and helps control gas leaks. Installation of those valves will also take place in future years (2015 and 2016) in Suffern and in the BaMar mobile home community and are being coordinated with the community because of extensive flood control work  being performed in the area.
    • Tappan. This gas gate station will be flood protected by raising specific gas gate station equipment — regulator vent lines, electronics and the station heater — in several phases. A backup generator also will be installed.  This project is in progress and is expected to be completed in 2015 at a cost of $800,000.

That work comes in addition to nearly $100 million this year in projects to fortify, improve and maintain the reliability of the O&R electric system. That investment builds on the more than $750 million O&R has invested over the past 10 years on electric system maintenance and reliability projects. O&R spent $30 million last year on its natural gas system capital projects. The Company has spent approximately $290 million on natural gas system infrastructure over the past decade.

Response Time Initiative

O&R has launched a new program designed to streamline O&R’s field damage assessment procedures. Under this new program, O&R transmits field damage reports in real time through electronic tablets or laptop computers. This automates and expedites damage assessment information O&R receives from the field, helping O&R identify and address damage more quickly and generate more accurate and timely Estimated Times of Restoration (ETR) for the customer.

Communication Advances

O&R is offering a range of new texting and other digital communications programs. O&R uses a variety of digital platforms to stay connected with its customers. O&R is on social media including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and the company’s social media is monitored 24/7 during major storm events. O&R’s Mobile App can be downloaded on Android and iOS devices for outage reporting purposes. O&R also has a mobile website that can be accessed through web-enabled mobile devices.