Baltimore, Maryland In The Matter of the Investigation into the )
Preparedness of Maryland Utilities for ) Case No. 8826
Responding to Major Outages )
Report of Armstrong Telephone Company - Maryland
The Armstrong Telephone Company - Maryland ("Armstrong" or the "Company") hereby files this report with the Maryland Public Service Commission ("Commission") in response to the October 1, 1999 Notice of Investigation in the above-captioned proceeding. Attached hereto is Armstrong responses to the Commission's inquiries. The Company requests that any questions concerning this report be directed to the undersigned. A copy of this filing has been provided to the Commission electronically.
Armstrong Telephone Company - Maryland
Attachment 1. For each major event, identify by day the number of customers out of service throughout your company’s service area and by county or other geographic area. Information should be provided by type of customer (i.e. residential, commercial and industrial.) Response: As the Commission is aware, Armstrong is an incumbent local exchange carrier operating approximately seven thousand (7,000) access lines in portions of Cecil County, Maryland. Armstrong's service area is primarily rural and residential, with the largest town, Rising Sun, having approximately 1,200 customers. The Company's network consists of one (1) switch and six (6) remotes, with most (approximately 98%) of its outside plant facilities buried.
The Company has experienced only one recent major network outage arising from the effects of Hurricane Floyd. On September 17, 1999, the Company lost power in its central office for approximately thirty-five (35) minutes from approximately 7:10 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. Although service was restored prior to the receipt of the first customer inquiry, the outage affected the Company's entire network with the exception of one remote office in Zion, Maryland (which serves approximately six hundred (600) customers). Because the Zion remote has stand alone capability, the Zion customers were able to call each other but not complete calls to numbers outside of the Zion remote. In total, the Company received twenty (20) trouble tickets on September 17, 1999 (eighteen (18) from residential customers; two (2) from business customers) which were all related to storm outages. The Company informed these customers that service had been restored.
2. Provide detailed information relating to the company’s staffing to deal with major outages resulting from disasters and other emergencies on an annual basis over the last five (5) years. Provide the number of line crews and the procedures for activating crews for restoring utility service to customers. Include detailed information on costs and personnel used to restore service. Response: Other than the September 17, 1999 affects from Hurricane Floyd, Armstrong has experienced no major outages in the last five (5) years. The September outage required two (2) of the Company's employees to restore service once the outage was identified. As indicated in the Company's Disaster Contingency Plan filed with the Commission in July of this year (a copy of which is attached), the Company's priorities with respect to outages are to emergency phones and key employees, local fire and ambulance companies, local doctors, local police agencies, and specific customer groups (including customers with medical certificates). After service is restored to these customers or it is confirmed that no service outage exists with respect to these customers, the Company then would begin efforts to restore service to its remaining affected customers. These effort would be prioritized based on the Company's assessment of how quickly service could be restored to the largest portion of its service area, and then to the remaining general customer base.
3. Provide the company’s procedure for requesting outside line crews. Each time during the last five (5) years that such procedures were employed; provide detailed information describing such requests (when the requests were made, to whom, and what response was received.) If your company’s line crews were requested by other utilities, please provide corresponding information. Provide data on the cost of
utilizing outside crews and information on revenues from providing your crews to other utilities. Response: The Company has requested no outside line crews and no other utility has requested Armstrong's line crews for restoring service.
4. Provide historical data, covering the past five (5) years, detailing the utility’s preparations for natural disasters and other emergencies; including but not limited to preparations made in advance of the storm, monitoring weather reports, inspection and maintenance of utility distribution lines, maintenance of right-of-way, emergencies, and the utility’s tree trimming policies and practices. Response: Among other information outlets, Company personnel monitor local media weather and news reports to keep abreast of weather, natural disasters, and other emergencies. Please see response to Question 15, below. Once the potential for such situations are identified, the Company then ensures that all vehicles and generators are fueled, and all spare gas tanks are filled. Moreover, all employees of the Company are placed on standby alert to assist with the Company's operations if necessary.
Approximately ninety-eight (98%) of the Company's outside plant is buried. The Company's aerial plant is located in the Town of Rising Sun. To the extent that trees are located close to this plant, the Company trims those trees on an "as-needed" basis.
Finally, the Company conducts daily "loop" testing on its distribution plant. If, as a result of these tests, the Company determines that the distribution lines fall below applicable regulatory and industry standards, the Company's maintenance practices are triggered.
5. Provide a historical perspective on tree trimming policies and practices over the past two (2) decades. Response: Please see response to Question 4, above.
6. Provide written procedures for storm related or emergency outage service restoration including response procedures for customers with documented medical needs certificates on file. All records are marked for specific customer groups (including those customers with medical certificates). Please also see response to Question 2, above.
7. For the last day of a major outage, provide a list of the specific neighborhoods or communities which remained without service on that day. Response: As described in more detail in the response to Question 1, above, the outage that occurred on September 17, 1999 lasted for approximately thirty-five (35) minutes. Once power was restored, all customers were restored at the same time.
8. How does the company respond to allegations that it uses inappropriate criteria (i.e. race, income level, etc.) to determine the sequence for reconnection. Response: The allegations described in this question have never been made against the Company.
9. For each major event in the past 12 months, identify by hour the number of customer calls received by the utility. Also, provide the number of utility personnel assigned to handle customer inquiries and the average call center capabilities per hour. Response: The following chronology reflects the customer inquiries that were received by the Company in response to the service outage arising from the effects of Hurricane Floyd.
The Company's normal staff of six (6) Customer Service Representatives are capable of handling several hundred customer inquiries per hour.
10. For each major event in the past 12 months, provide data relating to each category of customer inquiry or complaint received by the utility; including the number of inquiries by category and the utility’s response. Inquiry and/or complaint categories may include but are not limited to, when service restoration should be expected to occur, and hazards relating to line or poles down in neighborhoods. Response: Please see response to Question 1, above.
11. For each major event in the past 12 months, provide the number of inquiries concerning dry ice availability and provide the locations within your company’s service area and by county or other geographic area, where and how much dry ice was available for customers. For each location, indicate the date the dry ice was made available and the amount distributed. Response:
12. Provide information relating to the number of inquiries concerning alternative lodging and the availability of other remediation services, including alternate lodging, where such lodging was located and how the information was communicated to customers. Additionally, indicate any communication with the local emergency management agencies to arrange for alternate lodging or other remediation services.
13. For each major event in the past 12 months, what methods did the company use to disseminate information to customers about: (a) expected time frames for service restoration; (b) availability for dry ice; (c) availability for alternate lodging.
14. For each major event in the past 12 months, what methods did the company use to disseminate information to local and state officials, and the local and state emergency management organizations. Response: Due to the short duration of the power outage (approximately thirty-five (35) minutes on September 17, 1999), the Company did not notify local and state officials or local and state emergency management organizations.
15. For each major event in the past 12 months, what systems(s) did the company use to obtain information about hazardous conditions (e.g., downed trees and “live wires” on property, and other emergencies). Response: The Company learned of the power outage itself. As a general rule, the Company relies upon all available means of information including, but not limited to, customer reports, reports from local police and fire departments, local media outlets, employee reports, and connecting carrier referrals.
16. Provide data on the incidence of outages for underground lines during the past five (5) years in relation to overhead lines. Response: Approximately ninety-eight percent (98%) of the Company's plant is buried and there have been no outages of either buried plant or overhead (aerial) plant in the last five (5) years.
17. Provide information on the cost to underground transmission and distribution lines by county. Response: The Company has incurred no related service outage costs associated with its underground plant. The Company's policy is to bury its outside plant where possible.
SECTION 1-GENERAL INDEX SECTION: