Orange & Rockland Expands Program To Aid Customers Using Life-sustaining Medical Equipment

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that Orange and Rockland Utilities, Inc. (O&R) has agreed to enhance protections for utility customers who depend on respirators, dialysis machines and other life-sustaining medical equipment at home.

O&R provides electric service to approximately 215,000 customers in Rockland, Orange and Sullivan counties. The enhancements to O&R's Life Support Equipment Program (LSEP) for customers with certain medical needs stem from discussions initiated by the Office of the Attorney General earlier this year.

Spitzer thanked the company for working with his office and said, "O&R is implementing changes that will enable it to more easily identify households in which someone relies on electrically-operated life-sustaining medical equipment. With this information, O&R can help these persons plan for potential power emergencies and assist them if there is an extended loss of power."

As a result of discussions with the Attorney General's office, O&R has significantly improved its consumer outreach effort to identify customer households with electrical life-sustaining medical equipment.

According to New York State law, all electrical utilities must compile lists of customers whose households use life-sustaining equipment. In addition, the law requires the utilities to establish procedures for contacting such households within 24 hours during an extended power failure.

James J. O'Brien, O&R's vice president for Customer Service, commented, "During power emergencies, we contact customers who we know rely on life support equipment that would be affected by a power loss. We try our best to ensure that they get the information and attention they need to deal with any extended power outage. With the changes we are making, it's now easier to identify these special customers."

O&R has taken the following steps to enhance its outreach:

  • The company has modified the customer survey for taking service applications over the telephone to identify new customer households using electrically-powered life-sustaining equipment;
  • The company is distributing its new LSEP brochures, newsletters and articles to the health care community, including regional health agencies, offices of the aging, hospitals, medical equipment suppliers, community service organizations and municipal officials;
  • During a power failure, it is crucial for life-sustaining equipment users to reach out for help and for the company to contact such households. The company is distributing via mail a step-by-step Emergency Action Planner and a new LSEP brochure with an explanation of benefits and tips on portable generator safety and the use of telephones during power outages to every new customer within 30 days of commencing electric service. The information is also available at O&R's Customer Service Walk-in Centers. O&R will also prepare and send annual letters to LSEP customers as a reminderto obtain their medical re-certification for the program.
  • The company will record a message about the LSEP, which callers hear while waiting to speak with a company Customer Service Representative. O&R customers may obtain more details about LSEP and other customer information by calling 1-877-434-4100. This information is also available at http://www.oru.com/programsandservices/specialneedsandassistance/.

The Attorney General's agreement with O&R is part of the on-going initiative led by the Assistant Attorney General Charles Donaldson under the direction of the Assistant Attorney General-in-Charge, Susanna Zwerling of Spitzer's Telecommunications and Energy Bureau. Spitzer has recently reached similar agreements with Niagara Mohawk Corporation and the Consolidated Edison Company to modify the companies'customer service practices for households using electrically-powered life-sustaining equipment.

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