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As Customers Wait for Power, Crews Wait for Orders

FirstEnergy crews from out of state wait outside the Livingston Mall for directions for where to go.

The Livingston Mall parking lot had entire sections blocked off late Thursday morning for use by FirstEnergy employees. About a dozen workers, all in hardhats and reflective vests, drank coffee as they leaned on the bed of a pickup truck. Waiting.

"We've been here three or four hours [this morning]," said Bruce Carmichael, an employee of Alabama Power. "We sat longer in traffic."

Carmichael and approximately 50 colleagues from Alabama Power arrived in New Jersey Wednesday evening to help restore power to those still impacted by Other crews stationed at the mall came from Michigan and Ohio to still without power, 1,300 of whom, shortly before 2 p.m. on Thursday, were from Short Hills and Millburn. By 10:30 p.m. Thursday, JCP&L said that local number was down to 332.

The workers outside the Livingston Mall said they need to know where the outages are before they can head out. Cedric Blakes said a JCP&L operation center contacts a foreman with an address or neighborhood that needs power. The foreman takes a pickup truck and some line men and engineers to scout the area and see what materials are needed.

"Then we only need to take one trip in traffic with the bucket," Blakes said.

The problem is, since they had arrived at the Livingston Mall Thursday morning, they hadn't received directions where to go yet.

"They gave us some orders, but when we went to scout, turned out someone else was already there," Blakes said. "It is unorganized."

However, the team finally received information for a job site at about noon. The workers started loading a truck with a new utility pole and other materials. They still did not know where their destination was.

Carmichael said the storm had not caused as much damage as he had expected.

"We have been around the world on storms," he said. "We had a storm [in Alabama] a while back that was pretty bad. People died in that. We had 6,000 broken poles in a one-week event. This is not a big storm to us."

Mark Josephson November 04, 2011 at 04:18 AM
Good get here Laura. Unfortunately, this is not surprising. How disappointing to know that they are sitting there while we are still sitting in the dark.
JB November 04, 2011 at 04:42 AM
great reporting, Laura! Saw hundreds of crews and trucks hanging in Livingston mall parking lot tonight approx 730 tonight after 2 firstenergy workers were spotted in my yard at approx 230pm checking out power pole, disappeared, and another crew sat down the block idle approx 530-7pm. Even spoke with them before they disappeared at 7ish; they said they were waiting for their instructions. Still no power...
Dauv November 04, 2011 at 07:29 AM
Short Hills Village Apts are still without power. I would be more than happy to give them directions to our house if it meant having heat, hot water and electricity. it's sad yet reaffirming that the power company is not handling the restoration efforts in an efficient and organized fashion. Why am I not surprised?
MarkDS November 04, 2011 at 11:52 AM
Kudos Laura. Great reporting. As to JCP&L it is a total disgrace that they bring the crew in then do not have the systems and management in place to actually utilize the crews while people sit with no power.
ASquared Video Productions November 04, 2011 at 12:28 PM
Great organization skills ... lets dispatch the workers then hurry up and wait. Every town that has this poor excuse for a utility company should petition their townships to change over to PSEG at least they're based in NJ and don't have to bring in crews from Alabama, Ohio and god knows where else and kep people in the dark for almost a week
gracie November 04, 2011 at 12:31 PM
Why isn't our mayor there with a list of streets in Millburn/Short Hills?
ASquared Video Productions November 04, 2011 at 12:55 PM
In Springfield they provided us with a street by street list provided by the town council and the mayor
JB November 04, 2011 at 12:57 PM
Gracie: would be a great idea but not sure how she'd do that when she hasn't replied to resident emails about the situation nor have others.
frustrated resident November 04, 2011 at 12:58 PM
Is our mayor even aware that people are without power and heat?
KLF November 04, 2011 at 01:30 PM
This happened during Irene too. I saw two trucks just sitting in the parking lot at Gero Park. I told the crews about my neighborhood with no power. They looked at one another and said, "Should we go check it out?"
KLF November 04, 2011 at 01:34 PM
I have an idea. Let's have a volunteer citizen go to the staging site at the Livingston Mall. People with no power could call the volunteer with the address/neighborhood information, and the volunteer would provide the crew with directions to the streets with no power.
KLF November 04, 2011 at 01:40 PM
She doesn't reply to emails because she does not have a mobile device. She told me she is "out on the street" all day and doesn't receive email until late at night.
JShepard November 04, 2011 at 01:58 PM
During Irene, we had a worker from Ohio in our neighborhood. He told us that dispatch was the big problem - the crews would be ready, but sitting an average of 2 hours waiting for directions/instructions. Really??? Restoring my power is only supposed to take 10 minutes or so (according to the guy who "assessed" the situation). They can be at my house, fix the problem, and be back at the mall before the two hours is up...
JB November 04, 2011 at 02:05 PM
Great idea KLF. I would gladly do this and help organize if I weren't fending daily for my family still without power.
JB November 04, 2011 at 02:06 PM
KLF: I'm referring to at least one email to her from at least 3 days ago. I'm assuming she's been home even late at night at least once over the past 3 days.
LDSF November 04, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Police force and fire department? The utilities companies should work more closely with the township in this matter. The crews was inefficient in working out of town. Waste of resources.
LDSF November 04, 2011 at 03:28 PM
At least, the crews can work in the schools.
Stacy Krieger November 04, 2011 at 09:27 PM
So, do we need to go to the mall to show these guys where to go? Jcpl is truly horrible. They learned nothing from Irene.
LDSF November 05, 2011 at 01:23 AM
Unless you bring over couple bottles of beers and wine. The crews are paid when they are waiting and drinking coffee, easy decision to make.

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