CL&P vows to share more data with towns

Photo of Ken Dixon

Connecticut Light & Power will share some of its sensitive infrastructure data with towns and cities in an attempt to develop regional preparation for natural disasters.

And a co-chairman of the governor's Two Storm Panel put the onus on following up on the effort with the chairman of the Connecticut Geospatial Information Systems Council, including the possibility of requesting permission from state regulators.

"I'm happy to fulfill any level of cooperation," said Tyler Kleykamp, an employee of the state Office of Policy and Management who leads the information council.

"Do we hold you accountable?" asked Joseph McGee, the storm panel's co-chairman, suggesting a 60-day window to develop a cooperative arrangement on items including the logging of utility poles and distribution landmarks.

"If that's your choice," Kleykamp replied. "Whatever the actual data is you're bouncing this against, the better. That may require some disclosure of certain information from utilities. We don't know exactly what that may be or how much detail you might need, but it would likely, in order to be most effective, require some degree of disclosure."

He said obstacles to sharing information such as distribution networks include security threats and sensitive business data. "You can still share information about that data," he said. "So in an emergency or in an event that you need to get access to that data, you know what's there."

Kenneth Bowes, vice president for energy delivery at CL&P, announced intentions to cooperate with towns and cities in developing geospatial systems that can be shared when large-scale power outages occur.

Joseph McGee said that he wants CL&P and United Illuminating to become members of the Geospatial Information Systems Council, even if the issue has to first be referred to state utility regulators. The group shares demographic and infrastructure data throughout the state.

"At the end of the day there's a lot of work that's going to have to be achieved here," McGee said to Bowes. "The opportunity here for collaboration, I think, has real benefits to the state of Connecticut in a storm. My assumption is that if we share data, so that the data you're requesting comes from the town is put on your system, it will speed up damage assessment significantly."

"That is accurate, yes," Bowes replied.

"We're trying to find who's accountable," McGee said. "The utility is taking a major step here, they're moving away from a previous more-difficult position to a more-collaborative position in the sharing of data."

McGee said the opportunity for sharing information among state agencies, towns and cities that have already invested in local geospatial mapping and utilities is very timely and important.

"Just sitting here, does that make any sense that we're spending this kind of money for a system that doesn't talk to one another?" McGee said. "I mean, it's kind of embarrassing, to be candid. This is a big deal and would make a big change in how we do damage assessment in this state."

Meghan McGaffin, who heads geospatial information for the city of Milford, said that while Tropical Storm Irene at the end of August was downgraded from hurricane status, its flooding and power outages in the city of 50,000 were the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane.

"Either Irene faked us out or this model was incorrect for our circumstances," said McGaffin, noting that the city extensively maps a variety of information to share with emergency responders and law enforcement. "It was better than knowing nothing."