COLUMBUS, Ohio — AEP Ohio is promising to do better when it comes to alerting customers about forced outages, two weeks after the power company cut off power to more than 100,000 Franklin County customers.
AEP President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Reitter answered questions Friday about the company's forced power outage that started June 14 that left thousands of people in the Columbus area without power.
"I know we need to do better. You know we need to do better," he said.
Reitter and other AEP executives will appear before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in July to discuss what they knew and when they knew that the power had to be shut off. One of the biggest controversies surrounding the decision was the company gave no notice to customers.
10TV asked Reitter about the decision.
Landers: How did you not have a plan in place to send out notices to people that power was going to be shut off? Did that take you by surprise? And what have done to correct that?
Reitter: Yeah, it happened very fast, so it did take AEP Ohio by surprise. Our challenge internally is how to get that message out," he said.
AEP donated $1.5 million to four local nonprofits to help people impacted by the power outages. Columbus Urban League, LifeCare Alliance, Mid-Ohio Food Collective and IMPACT Community Action each received $250,000 to help people pay their utility bills or pay for food for those impacted by the outage.
IMPACT bought $250 gift cards to hand out to people. The nonprofit ran out of them on Friday.
For people like August Handy, who said she lost power during the forced outage, she waited in line for two hours to get a gift card. She
"That was a frightening time. We didn't know how things were going to be replaced and luckily with this some of this is," she said.
For those who are still struggling to stay cool, the Home Energy Assistance Summer Crisis Program starts July 1
Those who qualify can receive up to $500 to help with their utility bill, or to purchase, an air conditioner or fan.
You can also visit AEP Ohio's website to learn more about their Neighbor to Neighbor program here.