Ever since becoming president of National Grid's New York
state operations in early 2011, Ken Daly has been dealing with one natural
disaster after another.
First there were tropical storms Irene and Lee later that year, and then Superstorm Sandy last fall, followed by devastating flooding this summer along the Mohawk River valley.
And of course there were the underground fires and manhole explosions in downtown Albany related to the utility's underground electrical system.
Daly, who oversaw billions of dollars in new investments to the company's upstate gas and electric infrastructure during that time, says the company has learned a lot of lessons.
"Unfortunately, we're getting good at this," Daly said.
That includes better ways of mobilizing its workforce in advance of storms and getting help to customers who lose service. Even before a spate of heavy rains that hit upstate last month, the utility's executives were printing customized brochures that explained how National Grid could help.
The utility also bought a lot of shovels that its own employees used to help dig customers out of the mess caused by the flooding, especially in hard-hit areas like Fort Plain.
Those employees also went door-to-door canvassing neighborhoods to learn about the damage first-hand.
"They very quickly got us information on what those communities needed," Daly said.
Like it did after the similarly devastating flooding following Irene and Lee, National Grid quickly created a $2 million emergency grant program to help rebuild businesses in the Mohawk Valley.
Daly said the program is structured to give eligible applicants upfront money so they can quickly reopen their doors. Without the quick aid, Daly said, history has shown that many of those businesses would never open again, creating a ripple effect of job losses in National Grid's service territory.
"You really have a limited amount of time where you can make a difference," Daly said.
Daly, who lives in the New York City area, said on a recent visit to a call center in Brooklyn, he noticed that telephone reps there had taken up a collection for Mohawk Valley flood victims. He said that was a show of appreciation for all of the help that National Grid's upstate workers provided during the aftermath of Sandy in New York City and Long Island.
Daly said that regarding the underground line issues in downtown Albany, the company has been inspecting hundreds of manholes in the area and has already replaced tens of thousands of feet of underground cabling in the city, with more to come. Underground electrical wiring is especially susceptible to water and salt.
"I think we have a robust plan to mitigate those issues," Daly said.
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