Answering Isaias

Storm crew members responded to extensive damage in the JCP&L and Met-Ed service territories.

August 21, 2020

As it roared up the East Coast in early August, Tropical Storm Isaias brought a one-two punch of heavy rain and pounding winds to regions from Florida to New England. But Isaias might have delivered its most devastating blow to New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania.

The swift-moving storm poured up to 7 inches of rain on the region and battered the Jersey coast with wind gusts exceeding 60 mph. In its wake, Isaias left extensive damage to the electrical systems in our Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) and Met-Ed territories – with thousands of instances of downed wires, broken poles and cross arms, and damaged transformers. Many roads were closed due to falling trees and branches – hampering power restoration work.

Despite the challenges, FirstEnergy Utilities’ (FEU) storm team worked around the clock to restore service to 788,000 JCP&L customers and approximately 88,000 Met-Ed customers. Line crews, substation electricians, troubleshooters, damage assessors, hazard responders, tree crews and other service and support personnel completed the successful restoration effort while adhering to COVID-19 safety and health guidelines (see sidebar story for details).

“We can be very proud of our overall restoration effort, especially when you consider the challenges of COVID-19 and the extra safeguards put in place to protect workers,” said John Huber, director, Emergency Preparedness. “We received a lot of support from company leadership and strong cooperation from everyone involved in restoration activities, including our contractor partners in the field. Workers demonstrated a firm commitment to following the health and safety guidelines we established for the event, and that allowed us to focus on restoring service to customers as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Total Team Effort

More than 9,200 utility personnel were involved in the Isaias response. Crews from JCP&L, Met-Ed and other FEU operating companies spearheaded repair efforts. Providing critical support were company contractors and partner utilities from electric industry mutual assistance organizations. FirstEnergy set up multiple staging sites to feed, house and supply storm team members.

Due to the storm team’s dedicated efforts, Met-Ed restored power to all affected customers on Friday, Aug. 7. JCP&L restored service to the final impacted customers on Monday, Aug. 10. Utility crews completed the following repairs:

  • JCP&L – replaced more than 80 miles of wire and repaired or replaced more than 725 poles, 2,800 cross arms and nearly 650 transformers.
  • Met-Ed – replaced nearly 6 miles of wire and repaired or replaced 83 poles, 125 cross arms and 56 transformers.

In addition, Customer Service and call center teams worked diligently to keep customers informed around the clock on the status of restoration efforts and to provide reminders on how to stay safe.

“Answering Isaias required a total team effort on two fronts – restoring service to our customers and keeping everyone involved in the restoration safe and healthy,” said Sam Belcher, senior vice president, and FEU president. “We couldn’t be prouder of our employees’ commitment to achieving those goals under some difficult and unique conditions.”

Safeguards for Storm Team

In response to COVID-19, a wide range of safeguards were put in place to ensure the health and safety of workers – including contractors and mutual assistance crews – involved in Isaias restoration efforts.

  • FirstEnergy employees were required to follow the company’s COVID-19 health and safety guidelines (e.g., wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and washing hands). Mutual assistance personnel and contractors were asked to follow guidelines established by the Edison Electric Institute, which mirror the FirstEnergy guidelines.
  • Efforts were made to limit attendance at onboarding and briefing meetings to no more than 10 people at a time and participants were asked to follow social distancing guidelines. Extra meetings were held to accommodate this requirement.
  • Most workers stayed in local hotels, one person per room. At staging sites, FirstEnergy brought in extra sleep trailers and reduced the number of workers per trailer.
  • All meals were boxed and handed out. Although seating was available in tents at the staging sites, many workers opted to eat at their trucks or with their work groups (pods) to maintain social distancing. There were no buffet lines or salad bars, and every effort was made to limit the number of employees entering the meal tent at any one time.
  • FirstEnergy stocked the staging sites with masks, disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer.
  • Any health issues brought to FirstEnergy’s attention were addressed as quickly as possible to ensure the safety of the workforce. Extra company Safety representatives assisted with this effort.

Workers wear masks and practice social distancing while getting boxed meals at a staging site.