If you’re looking for sunshine and roses today, go somewhere else. I’m going to spend the next few paragraphs discussing the prevailing NOLA meme of the past few days, and it won’t be pretty.
So Entergy sucks you say? Really?
From 7:23pm August 31, here’s the 140 characters that perfectly capture not only what went wrong with Entergy, but also what went wrong with their customers:
@Duris hit the nail on the head with his statements about communication and social media fail, but his statement that ‘we know how it (the power) works’ was even more prescient, although not in the way he intended.
First, Entergy can’t blame anyone else for throwing themselves into the social media wood chipper. Living without power, even for a few days, just sucks. Always has and always will. But what has fundamentally changed is our expectation of accurate continuous communication. @Duris and all the rest of us are right to expect it. The tools and technology are there, and Entergy failed to make use of them.
The outage map was inaccurate, their CEO proved to be a less than inspiring speaker, and Entergy failed to effectively communicate the scope of the problem. What could they have done differently? Better information and education, before, during, and after the storm. The primary goal, of course, was getting the juice back on. But Entergy appears not to have fully appreciated the secondary goal of articulating the process and framing the dialogue.
When they willfully ceded the information high-ground, others were more than happy to jump into the gap. The result, one would hope, is a fundamental learning within the utility hierarchy: If you suck at communication, the general public will rapidly assume you suck at everything else, including your actual core competence.
We need and deserve better from Entergy in this area; hopefully during the next storm (and we know there will be one) we’ll get it.
Now let’s turn to where @Duris got it so wrong.
‘It’s not the power per se. We know how it works.’
With all due respect, @Duris: No. No you don’t.
And with very small exceptions, neither does the public at large (myself included). Plugging in a lamp and watching the bulb light up doesn’t mean you know how it works. And don’t get on your high-horse, you handyman electricians. Knowing how to throw a breaker, or even how to rewire your entire house, still doesn’t mean you know how it works.
Repeat after me: Unless you possess a very specific skill set, You. Do. Not. Know. How. To. Restore. A. Municipal. Power. Grid.
And why would you be expected to? There’s no shame in that. But there’s plenty of shame in the hubris of people ready to assume that they do know. According to his profile, @Duris is an attorney. Well, I know what a Miranda right is. Would you be ok with me representing you against him in a court of law because ‘I know how it (the law) works?’ Yeah, I didn’t think so.
How is it that so many people with a wealth of expertise in their chosen profession, expertise built over years of education, training, and experience, can so cavalierly assume that similar expertise would not obtain in a project of this scope?
Yeah the communication could have and should have been much better, and yes the wait for power has been frustrating. But none of that justifies intellectual laziness and the mean-spirited idea that if I can’t have what I want right now it must be somebody’s fault.
Welcome to America’s favorite reality show: Who can I blame?
My apologies to anyone who’d not been through a storm before, but if you thought you wouldn’t be without power for several or many days you were misled or willfully ignorant.
Here are a couple of examples of the high level thinking that concluded Entergy wasn’t doing their job restoring power:
From 8:08am on Sept 1:
@NOLAwineguy seems unaware of Federal DOT regulations requiring driver rest periods. He might be able to suggest a terrific Bordeaux, but that doesn’t give us any reason to assume he knows jack shit about the power grid. Thankfully, he doesn’t waste time worrying about any of that ‘knowledge’ stuff, as his investigative reporting reveals to us that Entergy’s not hard at work.
From 8:04am on Sept 1:
Arbitrary? This tweet is an arbitrary unsupported load of horseshit. What’s more likely, that Entergy decided to work without a plan, or that a wine expert just doesn’t understand it?
But wait, there’s more. The always quotable @nolawineguy exercised his critical thinking with this gem at 11:20am September 2:
Brilliant comparison. Hey @nolawineguy, would you consider Houston a major city? Perhaps a better point of comparison given their geography? Ya know how long they were without power after Hurricane Ike? I do. You obviously can’t be troubled to look for any, like, facts, so let me help you. Just click on this thing right here, action reporter.
Am I being to0 hard on @nolawineguy? Before you decide, just check this last one out at 8:05pm on August 30, and remember winds did not drop below 30 mph until Wednesday afternoon, August 29, or a shade more than 24 hours before @nolawineguy decided it was time to fight the power:
Cry me a river, buddy. Whatever credibility you might have had vanished the moment you started bitching about not getting same-day service on your lights and AC. And don’t give me that crap about already having been without power for days by this time. If you count the hours during which Isaac was parked over us against Entergy’s response time, do me a favor and get your ass up on a pole in 50 mph winds sometime and let me know how it works out for you.
Here’s another from 8:16pm on Aug 31:
Well I guess this is more reasonable. A bit more than 48 hours after the restoration commenced there’s ‘no good reason’ for it not to be completed? And your basis for that conclusion is what, exactly? Did you think they had a Staples’ Big Red Easy button they just needed to press?
And let’s not forget the grandstanding Jefferson Parish President John Young, who managed to find the opportunity to build some political capital jumping on Entergy (forcing them to divert resources to a response, by the way). Hey John, why is it that there’s still storm debris all over the street on September 5th? Why are you having a problem coordinating that? Why the hell wasn’t this crap off the ground by 9am August 30, and are you preparing your resignation as a result? And while you’re at it, can you explain to me why you were blaming Entergy for the lack of power to your lift stations during and after the storm? Was it news to you that we might, like, lose power during a hurricane? Did it not occur to you to maybe generator-backup those puppies? Glass houses, John. Glass houses.
Look, I get it. Loss of power is damned inconvenient, and seriously expensive. The economic consequences of the storm are large. For some small businesses, they’re critical. But there’s no way around the fact that, for most of us, Isaac was a walk in the park compared to what happened seven years before. Maybe there’s evidence that Entergy failed in the restoration, but I haven’t seen it yet. If you’ve got some, feel free to chime in. But ‘I’m tired of being without power’ is not evidence. ‘I saw trucks parked and not rolling’ is not evidence. ‘My brother’s cousin’s sister talked to a lineman from out of state’ is not evidence. ‘Things seem disorganized’ is not evidence.
The next time one of these things happens, maybe some of us can be smart enough to know what we don’t know.