It's been about 40 hours since power went out at home in the midst of Hurrice Irene passing through the area. Thankfully we had power for most of the day it hit, but lost it before bed time. My new wife and step-daughter and my daughter were playing some Yahtzee together for family time when the power went out and just continued playing by oil lamp and candlelight as we hoped the outage wouldn't be that long but each (at least myself and my wife) pretty much expected it would be out longer, especially given the fact the storm was still in full force and hadn't finished with the damage it would deal yet.
We had the full day yesterday for repairs and clean-up efforts to begin and we continued to *hope* that the power would be restored soon so that we'd also get water back. Somewhere over the last few years the water system was changed so that where we used to have about 18 - 30 hours of "reserves" of water pressure we now have *zero* reserves. When the power goes, so goes the water pressure and while you can get by without power (for the most part), having no clean water means things are no where near as fun or hygenic. No water for flushing toilets, no water for washing up, etc.
We have been able to get buckets and jugs of water along the way, including from the water tower in the trailer park we live in, so it's not that bad, but it's not terribly convenient and just makes us all want the people that run the park to break out the generator again and get the water pump working again asap.
Meanwhile, I'm back to rant a bit about so-called right-sizing. In the name of full disclosure, I am a worker in the U.S. of A. and I am also an investor in the market. I have some holdings in "energy" stocks, so yes, I benefit from the profits that energy companies make, but I must say, I think the energy producers and providers in this country have gone much, much too far in the name of right-sizing themselves.
I know that these companies can't afford to carry a bunch of employees that are not going to be working except in emergencies, but at the same time, the idea that these companies can simply "borrow" the help from neighboring states and regions is just plain wrong and has proven so time and again. Rather than being able to restore power within reasonable time frames, the power companies have to cry for help *after* the damage is done (though some may put out alarms earlier, they still are at the mercy of the transportation system, and also are at the mercy of other regions who have to worry about their own potential emergencies should the hurricanes and such strike in their areas) and then have to wait for same before they can finally dispatch these visiting repair crews out to fix the damage. They may pair up the visiting personnel with their own home team personnel, but regardless they wind up taking longer to do things they used to be able to do pretty quickly.
PEPCO has been advertising that they have done much more preparatory work -- tree-trimming and such -- to prepare for the storms that came through, and that may be true (and likely is true), but it was still no where near enough. Yes, tree-huggers and residents hate having the trucks come through and cut limbs, but the same people will cry long and loud about losing power for longer periods of time. In the end, these companies MUST get out there and do more to keep their system intact during weather events and yet, well, they don't. Why not? I suspect for the same reasons the repairs take so long when needed -- because it costs them money to send out crews to do the work and they just don't have the personnel to do it with.
I picture power companies as places with 2 or 3 employees and big computerized phone trees that are used to call in personnel who then come in, contract for some short period, and then are sent to the next region/locale with an emergency. Otherwise the number of actual employees is kept to a minimum in favor of some contractors (who they don't have to offer benefits to) or part-time employees (same deal, few benefits).
I wish all of these companies would re-examine their staffing needs and abilities to fill the needs and perhaps add on some personnel so they could deal with the repairs after the fact and so they could be much more proactive and be less prone to losing service in advance.