Photo: Grace Duffield / Hearst Connecticut Media
All the posturing, accusations and excuses have started to flow after Hurricane Isaias. It just seems like “Sandy” all over again. Money will be spent to patch up an old, outdated and poorly designed infrastructure and we’ll be right back where we were before the storm hit.
Make no mistake, it doesn’t need to be this bad following a storm. Concrete steps to improve electrical grids, cable infrastructure, wired phone systems (copper) and cellular coverage need to start right now.
1. Cellular towers must be allowed to be placed for maximum coverage with minimal site delay.
2. Cellular system backup must include adequate generation and battery support for seven days without electrical service.
3. All participating utilities (power, cable, phone, fiber optic) must immediately begin upgrading poles and hanger systems to withstand 80 percent or more of the expected hurricane storm damage. Such systems exist and are used in many areas of the United States. Recent modifications to 40-year-old and older utility poles (metal harness and insecticide plugs) are not fixes to these overloaded props supporting much of the essential infrastructure.
4. Extensive preventive measures of tree removal/trimming need to be aggressive and ongoing in this tree-loving state. Crews that came through following Sandy would only cut limbs six inches or less. Those aren’t the trees and branches that bring down the system!
5. Cable systems must be “hardened” to maintain service in the event of utility power loss through the use of battery, generators and solar to support needs throughout the system. The power needed by a cable system is easily supported by pole located backups.
6. All utility and municipal service crews and equipment must be pre-positioned in advance of a storm. Supporting contractors should be activated as well. Citizens must understand and accept the cost of employing these provisions even if the damage is minimal.
7. Town traffic lights (now LED) should have battery or generator backup, locally or centrally placed. Failing that, manned intersection directors (traffic cops), should be deployed.
We look back on the days of Bell Telephone’s monopoly of phone service with some envy now. It was very rare to lose phone service because of a storm. The company provided battery and generator backup at key installations across the service area with re-switching capabilities. Cable companies vied for the communication business and won much of it with lower cost and some feature improvements. However, they failed to install the necessary safeguards to this essential service and our politicians failed to mandate it in allowing the franchise.
State and municipal hearings will not do anything until actual changes in the regulations on utilities allow monopolies or duopolies in the state. Entities, such as Eversource, should make money, for everyone’s benefit. However, they should do that after repairs and improvements are made to a terribly out-of-date and poorly maintained infrastructure which yields the fourth highest electrical rates in the United States.