RG&E President speaks about how the company is preparing for the storm

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — One of the biggest issues with this storm is the potential for damaging winds.

With that, of course, comes the concern of widespread power outages. That’s a big concern with this storm because the wind-chills will be well below zero.

The president of RG&E explains how a utility already struggling to keep up with customers’ needs is planning to handle this.

For months, we’ve reported on serious billing and customer service issues at RG&E with what could be a major storm heading in our direction. You may be wondering whether the utility will be able to keep up. 

News10NBC’s Jennifer Lewke: “People worry oh my God, I can’t get through to customer service on a Tuesday afternoon with sunny skies. What happens if I’m in the middle of a storm with no power?”

RG&E President Trish Nilsen: “Well the storm is set to happen on Friday into Saturday which would not normally be our call-center hours but we have people standing by and we have additional representatives and our other locations ready to support.”

Nilsen has been honest about the fact the utility is experiencing a major staffing shortage when it comes to customer service agents.  

Lewke: “Are you experiencing the same staffing shortages on the road that you are on the phone?”

Nilsen: “Our biggest staffing challenges have been in the customer service area. Our line workers are a dedicated group of employees that do at least five years of training to get into that position and often will start and end their careers here which we’re really proud of. We’ve got a long history of dedicated workers. We’re not seeing those same shortages.”

The utility has pre-staged 330 additional line and tree crews across its upstate service area for the storm. But line workers can’t get up in the buckets to make repairs until the wind is under 40 miles per hour, so, it’s possible there may be extended outages. 

Still, Nilsen says crews will be out working on “make-safe” operations as soon as any weather impacts are felt. 

Nilsen: “Our representatives will prioritize any outage calls certainly any safety calls. If somebody sees a downed wire or there’s a broken pole, there’s instructions on our IVR to call and escalate those calls and I’d say if anybody is worried about their safety we always ask them to call 911.”

If RG&E has your cell phone number, you’ve already been automatically enrolled in text alerts. If your power is out and they know it, they’ll text you to let you know if they have an estimated time of restoration.

You can also download the RG&E app on your phone for information on power outages. It’s available for the iPhone here. It’s available for Google Play here.