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Archive for Thursday, February 21, 2002

Storm-frustrated utility customers on special status

February 21, 2002

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— Late last month when the huge ice storm hit the area, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of people, Randy and Lori Ross became concerned for their two children.

The Ross children have special needs that require electricity. On their second day without power, Ross called Missouri Public Service, which told him his family was on a priority list. The Blue Springs, Mo., family endured 11 days without power.

"I know they (MoPub) got into some problems or trouble because of how monstrous this storm was," Randy Ross said, "but I think they need to take a look at their customer service and the way they operate. This needs to be fixed."

Area electric companies acknowledge that some medical-needs customers went days without power during the recent outage. Being put on a medical list does not guarantee service, the utilities said.

Instead, they instruct such customers to have backup systems, such as generators. Some may need to go to emergency rooms or friends' homes during outages. MoPub called 911 for several of its medical customers, spokeswoman Mary Amundsen said.

"It (the medical list) is really not meant to be a guarantee that you get priority service; it honestly can't be," Amundsen said.

When major storms cause widespread outages nearly 60 percent of Kansas City-area families lost power for at least a few hours utility companies first tackle primary power lines and other equipment that affects many customers.

After major repairs are done and workers begin focusing on individual homes, then medical needs customers usually receive priority care, utility companies said.

Tom Robinson, Kansas City Power & Light Co. spokesman, said KCP&L customer service representatives would check with the 58 people on the utility's medical list, making sure they all know that power isn't guaranteed during major outages. Also, they'll make sure that they have the proper number to call in case of outages.

The Missouri Public Service Commission, which regulates the electric utilities in Missouri, received a few complaints from customers who said they had medical needs and were without service.

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