Hey Pepco: There's an app for that

[Commentary] The recent snowstorm raises the following question: What century does Pepco think its customers are living in?

During the storm, Montgomery County citizens were rightly outraged. While we understand that there are financial trade-offs involved in preparing for storms that may or may not occur, the number and length of power outages were inexcusable. Worse, Pepco's emergency response system is both more expensive and less efficient than it should be, because it is based not on the technology of today, not on the technology of the last decade, but on the technology developed in the 19th century: voice communications. And attempting to report an emergency electronically was impossible. Customers with smart phones or working computers found an emergency page with an emergency phone number along with a message that says, "We regret that we cannot respond to outages reported by e-mail." E-mail? Pepco hasn't even caught up to the communications of the 1990s. It obviously needs to include an e-mail component in its emergency response system. But an even more effective way to report an emergency would be through a cell phone application. By using a broadband connection (such a smart phone) linking to the Pepco home page and filling out a simple form with the address, customers could access a dropdown screen to click on the nature of the problem and a phone number for a contact person. Such applications — a staple in many industries for reporting a problem — are routinely built in days, not months. Companies find that they save money through this type of reporting, because the information can be collected, analyzed and utilized far more rapidly. Decision-making becomes more efficient, more effective and more precise. The system can handle an unlimited number of reports (because it is not necessary to hire emergency operators to take the reports), and resources can be spent on responding to, instead of just collecting, information.


Hey Pepco: There's an app for that