BWL Releases Emergency Plan

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The Lansing Board of Water and Light made good on its promise to publish its Emergency Action Plan, posting it on its website Tuesday.

The release comes after a five-hour city council meeting, where more than 50 people voiced their concerns with BWL's response to an ice storm that has resulted power outages that have reached ten days.

"People were angry, people were frustrated," said David Price, an at-large commissioner on BWL's board. "People had expectations that weren't being met."

The plan focused more on employee protocol during situations such as environmental spills, active shooter situations and suspicious packages, but there were pages dedicated to catastrophic events.

It acknowledges that not all emergencies and responses can be predicted, but claims to serve as a guide for "basic response triggers and actions for most emergencies."

The "Catastrophic Event Coordination" section provides an outline for a Command and Communication Center -- a room on the second floor of BWL's REO Town office. The room provides a place for executives to share information if phone lines are down. The command center wasn't used this week because there was no need for it, said BWL Director of Communications Steve Serkaian.

BWL's commissioners though, say they haven't even read the plan.

"That doesn't mean that the staff isn't doing it, have completed it," said Sandy Zerkle, chair of the BWL Commission. "But yes, we will definitely be getting that and I'm sure it is being revised."

Commissioner David Price said the weather caught BWL by surprise.

"For some reason it didn't occur to us that we would ever be in this situation," said Price. "We weren't prepared for something of this size. That being said, we know going forward the things we have to do and we're going to discover more of what we have to do to make this right next time."

The way forward doesn't involve regulation from the Public Service Commission, which oversees investor-owned utilities like Consumers Energy and DTE.

Zerkle said the regulation would "definitely not" necessary, a position Mayor Virg Bernero shares.

"We don't need more regulation," said Price. "We just need better oversight of what we have."

Neither commissioner said BWL General Manager J. Peter Lark is on the hot seat. Frustrated customers have pushed for his resignation.

"There has been absolutely no conversation about that," said Zerkle. "I think Peter received a 98.8 rating [out of 100] on his last evaluation."

Price agreed, citing the opening of the REO Town plant that he says came in under budget as one of Lark's many accomplishments.

"Does that mean we have to hold Peter responsible? Of course we do," he said. "But there was no maliciousness in his management of this situation."

Lark is hired by the Board of Commissioners. The eight commissioners are appointed by Mayor Virg Bernero.

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