STORM UPDATE: UI in 'Storm Mode': Already at Irene staffing levels

FRIDAY UPDATE: The United Illuminating Company (UI) is deep into storm mode in preparation for Hurricane Sandy, which is expected to reach landfall in the United States this weekend or early next week.

The company began monitoring Sandy's progress on Monday and has since expanded its resources to over 600 full time equivalents secured to handle any storm damage. The number includes the following crews: line construction, line clearance, service, and damage assessors.

The National Weather Service currently projects that the storm will bring forcible winds and torrential rain.

"The resources that we will have in place before this storm arrives will be equivalent to what we had at the peak of Irene last year," said Anthony Vallillo, UI's president and chief operating officer. "We have our employees ready to respond for our customers."

UI is continuing to communicate updates and early information to state, regional and local municipalities and the Department of Public Utility Regulatory Authority.

"We are in regular communication with our weather service to closely track the storm's progress so we can respond accordingly, "Vallillo added.

UI again encourages customers to take extra precautions if the storm nears. Always stay away from and avoid downed power lines. To report a downed power line or outage, please call 1-800-7-CALL-UI (1-800-722-5584) and provide the location and any specifics.

THURSDAY: The United Illuminating Company (UI) announced Thursday it is preparing for Hurricane Sandy and "diligently watching its path."

Storm trackers have projected that the storm could reach landfall in the southern United States by the end of the week or early next week. The National Weather Service has issued an advanced hazardous weather outlook for Connecticut, and some projections site the potential for major coastal flooding with heavy rainfall later this weekend.

"We've been watching the movement of Hurricane Sandy for several days now," said Joseph Thomas, vice president, Electric Systems Operations and Client Fulfillment. "While it's still too early to know precisely if and when the storm could reach our area, we have put plans in place so we are prepared and our staff has been alerted, along with contractor support."

UI has held a series of meetings and ongoing preparation sessions internally.  Communications between UI and cities/towns have begun in earnest; providing municipal officials with information about UI's plans and updates on status.  In addition, the Company has also contacted additional contract crews and is marshaling their plan of action including coordination with city/town emergency operations centers.

"These sorts of storms can be very unpredictable and difficult to plan for," added Anthony Vallillo, UI's president and chief operating officer. "However, we have begun preparations to handle whatever this storm might bring."

UI encouraged customers to take extra precautions if the storm nears.

Always stay away from and avoid downed power lines. To report a downed power line or outage, please call 1-800-7-CALL-UI (1-800-722-5584) and provide the location and any specifics.

Be Prepared:

Home Generators: Any home generator that plugs into a house's wiring should be connected via a transfer switch by a licensed electrician. This ensures that when it's in use, house wiring is isolated from utility lines. Improper installation can damage the generators, or create hazards for utility employees working on poles, or even the general public. If adding a natural gas-fired generator, consult your gas utility to ensure there is adequate pressure. Generators should be placed outdoors and away from doors and windows to prevent exposure to carbon monoxide.

Medical equipment: If someone in your home uses electronic life-support or medical-monitoring equipment, develop a back-up plan in case an extended power outage occurs. UI has a program to register "life-support" customers. Call U.I. to learn more.

Perform a Storm Inventory: The possibility of an extended outage exists whenever severe weather strikes. Take an inventory of your home and stock up on supplies.

Make sure to have flashlights, candles, matches, a first-aid kit, a battery-operated radio or TV, a manual can-opener and a battery-operated clock. Stock up on fresh batteries, too.

Fill containers with drinking water and keep a supply of canned or dried food, as well as any medications needed. Check expiration dates.

Charge mobile phones in case of outages or emergencies. Store key contacts in a phone's memory, and keep a paper copy for backup.

Report Problems: Always assume downed power lines are live and dangerous, and be mindful of natural gas odors. If you see a downed power line, need to report an electrical power outage, or smell natural gas, please call your utility toll-free with the location and any specifics. Keep these numbers handy and programmed into your mobile phone.

The United Illuminating Company: 800-7-CALL-UI (800-722-5584)

Southern Connecticut Gas Company: 1-800-513-8898

Connecticut Natural Gas Corporation: at 1-866-924-5325

Berkshire Gas Company: 1-800-292-5012

Visit U.I.'s Outage Map: Customers of The United Illuminating Company can check out our new Outage Map online at . The new map features zoom controls and provides details about the nature and location of outages. The new Outage Map — as well a Town Outage List, Restoration Priorities, Storm Tips and Storm Safety information — can be found at the Storm Center on .

Storm Cleanup:

Take note of any overhead lines before cleaning gutters or performing other outdoor work at home.

When carrying ladders and long-handled tools, check your path to make sure you won't cross overhead lines.

Always keep yourself and your equipment at least 10 feet away from overhead lines, including lines from the pole to your home.

Assume that all overhead lines are energized, even if you've lost power, unless your utility informs you otherwise.

Use only non-conductive ladders when working near any overhead power lines.

Natural gas customers should keep sidewall vents clear of debris, leaves and vegetation.

Lightning Safety:

If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you. Take shelter immediately.

If possible, remain indoors. Keep windows and doors shut, and stay away from them.

Do not use corded phones, computers or other equipment that puts you in direct contact with electricity. Avoid plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets.

If you are outdoors, take shelter in your car if possible. Keep the windows and doors closed.

If you are caught outdoors, stay away from water. If you are at the top of an elevated area, such as a hilltop, get off. Never take shelter under a tree, or near an object that conducts electricity (fences, power lines, windmills, etc.).

If you are caught in the open, find a ditch or low ground and curl into a ball. Do not lie flat on the ground.

If someone is struck by lightning, call 911. The victim does not carry a charge, so you may immediately provide medical attention including CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) or AED (automated external defibrillator). Lightning strike victims have a very good chance of recovery if treated quickly.

More storm-related information can be found on The United Illuminating Company's website, under Storm Center.