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National Grid President Says Company Has 'All Hands on Deck'

The president of National Grid offered an update on Monday afternoon about the company's preparedness and response to Hurricane Sandy.

There are more than 1,300 electric crews on the ground in Massachusetts ready to restore power in the National Grid service area once Hurricane Sandy blows through.

That’s according to Marcy Reed, president of National Grid in Massachusetts. She met with the press on Monday afternoon in a conference call for about 20 minutes where she said the company has been preparing for Hurricane Sandy since last Monday.

As of mid afternoon Monday, the hardest hit areas included Quincy on the South Shore and Salem here on the North Shore, she said.

“Many utilities have been able to send crews and they are here,” she said. National Grid’s 16,000 employees are “all hands on deck,” from line crews to office staff, who are working to coordinate lodging for the out of state crews that have arrived.

Crews have come from as far away as California, Georgia and Washington state, as well as the province of New Brunswick in Canada.

“There will be a second wave of crews once the storm is over (in other areas),” she said.

National Grid has 1.2 million electric customers in Massachusetts - including all of Hamilton and Wenham - and another 400,000 customers in Rhode Island.

Despite all the preparations the company has undertaken, Reed still warned National Grid customers that they “need to prepare for extended power outages.”

Reed noted the company made several changes to the way it handles outages from stoms since last year, when more than 500,000 electric customers went without power during both Hurricane Irene in August and the “Snowtober” snowstorm a few days before Halloween.

Last summer, Attorney General Martha Coakley urged the state Department of Public Utilities to fine National Grid $16 million for its response to those two storms.

Among the changes that were made as a result of those two storms was a new method of damage assessment to determine the “big stuff,” Reed said.

“We’re going to go out there and find the big things that have to happen,” she said.

The company has also created the “community liaison” position that becomes the one point of contact between National Grid and the Police Chief, Fire Chief and town government in each community, she said.

“It smoothes out contact with the company and cut out the red tape,” Reed said.

And since those two storms, many residents have purchased generators. Reed reminded people that generators should be used outside in a well-ventilated area and that if a generators is used that homeowners should disconnect the main power supply from the street. That makes sure that unenergized wires on the street stay that way to ensure the safety of repair workers.

“That is very important to the safety of our crews,” Reed said.

The 1,300-1,400 repair crews – a combination of National Grid and out of state “mutual aid” crews – are ready to start restoration on Tuesday morning. Reed said it is too dangerous to send crews up in bucket trucks with winds of 30 miles per hour or stronger on Monday afternoon. 

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