Updated May 28 at 10:28am

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ENERGY

National Grid invests $60M to prepare for severe weather seasons

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PROVIDENCE – After Tropical Storm Irene battered Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts this time last year, more than 344,000 National Grid customers in Rhode Island were out of power. National Grid is investing $60 million in a new system to prepare for the severe weather season and make sure customers who lose power get it back more quickly.

The energy provider is investing $60 million in its 2012 Infrastructure Safety & Reliability Plan, a program to upgrade power lines, replace poles, install new transformers and improve substation operations throughout Rhode Island.

The company is expecting its 2012 and 2013 vegetation management budget to exceed $16 million and include more than 2,600 miles of power lines.

“Considering the amount of damage caused by the storm, the number of customers who were without electricity and the duration of some of those outages, we needed to look at our preparation and restoration practices in a new light,” Timothy F. Horan, president of National Grid in Rhode Island, said in a statement. “But, first and foremost, we need to continue to strengthen the reliability of the system.”

In addition to the planned infrastructure improvements, National Grid initiated a complete review of its practices to enhance outreach and use of social media sources to contact customers as severe weather approaches and advise them of potential power outages.

According to a release, National Grid also plans to develop briefing books for each community to include maps of major power lines as well as key public safety and critical care facilities located along the lines.

Other areas the power company is focusing on include: better management of wires down situations to free-up local fire and police, embedding trained liaisons within communities when needed to provide direct contact with the company, improving dispatching and tracking of outside crews to speed restoration and to upgrade information technology to provide the public with better access to outage and restoration information.

As part of its new plan, National Grid intends to conduct quarterly meetings with members of the R.I. National Guard, State Police, Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Transportation to facilitate better statewide response to emergencies.

Additionally, National Grid has asked the R.I. Public Utilities Commission to add 21 new positions in the Ocean State, 19 of which would be electrical workers directly involved in National Grid’s storm preparation and restoration efforts.

National Grid, Tropical Storm Irene, severe weather,

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