Nearly 2,000 users are following a Twitter account operated by Jersey Central Power & Light as the utility has stepped up efforts to keep customers informed while they are waiting for their power to be restored.
The company, which came under fire for its poor communication with customers after Hurricane Irene struck in August, has been using Twitter for the past week to provide estimates of restoration times and other advisories to customers affected by the late October snowstorm. The account, @JCP_L, recorded its first tweet Oct. 28, a day before the storm began to wreak havoc on New Jersey and other parts of the region.
“It was an outcome of Hurricane Irene, and we had not been using social media, but we realized customers are looking for information,” said Tricia Ingraham, a spokeswoman for the utility’s parent company, FirstEnergy. “And especially when there’s a power outage, people rely more on their mobile technology.”
JCP&L has tweeted 75 times through about noon today, when some 15,000 customers remained without power, according to the utility’s website. The posts ranged from updated outage totals to anecdotes such as, “One crew completed an extensive repair in Randolph just in time to watch another tree fall and ruin their work.”
Ingraham said the utility began to develop a social media strategy as part of its broader communication plan in the days after Irene, which made landfall in New Jersey in the early hours Aug. 28. The company had not planned to use its Twitter account until after receiving more feedback from state officials, but that changed once last week’s event entered the picture.
“When the snowstorm was forecast, we realized that we needed to act right away,” Ingraham said.
The storm left some 800,000 JCP&L customers without power, creating a second challenge in as many months for the embattled utility. All but 5 percent of those customers remained without power as of about noon. Most were expected to have their power restored by midnight, spokesman Ron Morano said.