The hurricane season of 2002 was one of the more active ones South Mississippians have seen in some time, with four named storms posing direct threats to the Coast and inland areas. As this summer approaches, Mississippi Power employees have been critiquing the companys performance during last years storms, reviewing plans and conducting training in preparation for storm activity this year.
Last year reminded us how potent Mother Nature can be, said company spokesman Kurt Brautigam. We were fortunate not to have sustained significant damage to our facilities during any of the storms, but having to gear up several times allowed us to streamline our response plans. Were confident Mississippi Power can and will be prepared to restore electricity as quickly and safely as possible in the event a major storm hits our area.
Storm preparedness is an integral task for any utility serving coastal areas. As soon as there is a possibility of a hurricane making landfall along or near the Mississippi Coast, arrangements will be made to move equipment and material into areas expected to be affected. Additional line crews and tree trimmers from other companies will be called on and mobilized, if necessary, and sources of food and lodging to accommodate them will have been identified and contacted. Emergency communication procedures for customers, the media and employees will also be put into effect.
If a storm comes our way, our first priority is to ensure the safety of our customers, employees and the electric system before and during the storm, said Brautigam. Once the storm passes, thats when well see the results of all our planning and preparations. The bottom line then is to restore electricity to all customers who are able to receive it as quickly and safely as possible.
"The first thing we do after a storm passes is determine the location and scope of damage and whats necessary to begin repairs. The important thing is to prioritize needs and match them with all available resources. We try to restore service to important public services initially, and at the same time work to re-energize those facilities that will affect the most customers.
Every Mississippi Power employee has a specific storm assignment. In addition to those employees working in the field or overseeing outside crews, other personnel are assigned to handle the logistics and supplies necessary to feed and house visiting crews, who may number in the thousands depending on the severity of damage.
Well also have additional communications people available to ensure that customers are aware of what were doing and how it affects them, said Brautigam. We understand that getting the lights back on is probably one of the biggest morale boosters for all of us putting our lives back together after a storm.
Last year, we had relatively few customers who lost service during Isidore, which hit the Coast pretty hard, or Lili, which skirted our service territory to the west. It would be nice to think we wont have to deal with any storm this year, but we know we will sooner or later. Thats why we plan and train and prepare as much as we possibly can.
Mississippi Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company, serves more than 192,000 customers in the 23 counties of Southeast Mississippi.
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