After was finally done flooding roads and knocking out power a year ago, it pushed Jersey Central Power & Light to make it easier for residents to report outages.
The company now allows customers to report home and street light outages at its 24/7 Power Center on the company website, which can also be accessed through smart phones when outages leave residents without computer access, said Pete Johner, area manager for JCP&L customer and community relations in Central New Jersey.
"After Irene, there were a lot of issues with communication with this company," Johner said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. "So we've made a lot of communication changes. We enhanced the website, we have toll-free phone numbers in an electronic system people can call, and I'm going around meeting with municipal officials, nurturing relationships.
"We heard the politicians, as far as what they wanted," Johner continued, referring to officials relaying residents' complaints in Irene's dark, watery wake. "And we've made improvements. We're also working on infrastructure and system improvements on a daily basis."
Those using the website can also see how many other customers are without power, he added.
As part of his efforts to improve communication with municipal officials, Johner addressed the Point Pleasant Borough Mayor and Council at Tuesday night's council meeting.
"Our role is changing drastically because of Irene," he told Mayor William Schroeder and council members.
And, if there is another bad storm, "I'm the guy you want to talk to," he told them.
Irene had originally been a hurricane, but, The summer storm left 750,000 New Jersey customers without power and, along with other recent storms and a lot of rain last year, heavily damaged JCP&L's infrastructure, Johner said.
"The company is working on infrastructure improvements on a daily basis, we're spending $200 million on it this year alone," he said.
Irene seemed to pick and choose her victims, causing power outages and flooding in some areas, including surging onto part of the Point Beach boardwalk, but sparing other parts of the local area, some of which did not suffer outages or flooded roads.
The repair work was finished in June.
Johner said he did not know exactly when the upgrade with the 24/7 Power Center was completed, but that the press release announcing the new feature was issued on April 23. To see the press release, click here.
Regarding another storm-related topic, Johner said that JCP&L has concerns about residents installing back-up generators because many are not being installed properly.
"This is a big concern for us because they can cause fatalities if they're not properly installed and they can back feed into our cables," Johner said.
He said residents who want to use generators need to hire licensed electricians to install them and that they should always be installed outdoors, never inside homes or garages. That's because generators have emissions and, when released indoors, can cause death, Johner said.
Johner said he has been the area manager for the past 11 years for "Central New Jersey" which includes 23 municipalities in Monmouth and Ocean counties. His region extends from Bradley Beach down to Brick, Point Pleasant and Point Pleasant Beach.
He attended the Point Pleasant meeting primarily to talk to council about the possibility that the Borough may use
However, he also discussed the aftermath of Irene, the company website and communication issues.
To report home or street light outages by phone, call 1-888-LIGHTSS (SS is correct) or 1-888-544-4877.
To see a June press release about ongoing trimming of local vegetation, including in Point Pleasant, see attached PDF.