About 22 people from around Maryland criticized Baltimore Gas and Electric's (BGE) performance after the June 29 derecho storm at a public meeting in Annapolis on Monday night.
"I've lived in Third World countries; I’ve lived in rural Mississippi; I’ve lived behind the Iron Curtain, and I have never experienced the poor power supply that I have here in Annapolis," Dave Bastian said.
Jason Kammerdiener said he lived through nine hurricanes in Florida and lost power for more than two days each time, but he's often without power in Arnold for five or more days.
"I feel as though I’m a slave in my own house," Kammerdiener said.
He compared BGE's customer service to "a three-ring circus, and I’m the clown in the car."
The two-hour meeting was the third of eight scheduled by Maryland's Public Services Commission—the regulating body for utility companies in the state. The meetings are part of the commission's investigation into how well utility companies worked to restore power after the derecho.
Anne Arundel County Exectuive John Leopold read a prepared statement on where he thought BGE could improve its relationship with local governments.
He focused mainly on Anne Arundel County's desire for more accurate and up-to-date outage information "so that we can have real time information so that people will know exactly when they are in the queue for having their power restored."
"I think BGE could do a much more effective job in providing that kind of communication," Leopold said.
Officials with Annapolis' Office of Emergency Preparedness and Risk Management (OEM) reached out to BGE earlier this month to discuss an Annapolis specific map for service disruptions.
The lone voice in support of the utility company came from Davidsonville resident Erin Minich.
"I don’t think there is anyone really to blame expect mother nature," Minich said. "I personally feel that maybe BGE needs to be cut some slack on this specific storm. I know my popularity just went down big in this room."
BGE spokesman Rob Gould sat towards the back of the Legislative Services Building's joint hearing room listening to the comments. He said the complaints are in line with what the company has already heard.
Gould said the installation of smart meters will help BGE provide better information to local governments and customers because his company will be able to ping each meter to see if a house has power.
One of the repeated complaints by commentators was frustration over a lack of knowledge about when power would be restored. Gould said after Hurricane Irene, BGE customers reported they would prefer worst case scenario timelines rather than a series of changing estimates.
"It's almost like surgery," Gould said. "It looks like it will take us 'X' long, but until we get in and open up the patient, we're really not going to be able to tell you. It could go longer."
In June, a destroyed transformer near Baltimore took the company about four days to repair—well beyond initial estimates.
Gould also blamed modern technology saying it created an expectation that information should always be available immediately. The smart meters will improve communication times, but Gould said there will always be a certain amount of lag between the time a disaster hits, and the time information becomes available.
"The gap between expectations and the reality of restoration continues to widen," Gould said. "As that gap continues to widen, frustrations will continue to grow."