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Neighbors request solutions after NES repair causes power surge

Homeowners in one Midstate neighborhood said they’re demanding accountability from Nashville Electric Service after a power surge ripped through their homes, da
Updated: Apr. 4, 2022 at 6:10 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Homeowners in one mid-state neighborhood said they’re demanding accountability from Nashville Electric Service after a power surge ripped through their homes, damaging their HVAC systems and costing them thousands of dollars.

A broken range hood and a messed-up HVAC system is just part of a growing repair bill for Stephanie Pruitt-Gaines.

“We’re paying thousands of dollars that it’s costing to fix everything,” Pruitt-Gaines said.

She blames the broken pole that NES was working on in February.

Pruitt-Gaines’ neighbor, Bobby Durham, called NES after seeing the dangling pole from his kitchen.

“They said it looked like an emergency or a liability and they needed to take care of it right away,” Durham said.

Crews came out to fix it, when suddenly.

“Around noon that day, I heard a loud boom and an explosion and a lot of noise and then a lot of commotion,” Pruitt-Gaines said.

Next, she said, her power went out, and then, “Turns out our HVAC system was blown.”

Pruitt-Gaines and her Donelson neighbors started talking, connected the dots, and found out that they all had electrical issues, from broken appliances to failing outlets.

“We found out that as NES was repairing this rotten pole that was dangling, they decided not to turn off the electricity,” Pruitt-Gaines said.

Pruitt-Gaines and her neighbors each filed a claim with NES but got a denial letter. The letter said NES does not reimburse customers for expenses they may incur due to interruptions of service, per its rules.

The letter also stated that they use reasonable diligence to provide a regular and uninterrupted supply of electricity, but shall not be liable for any loss, injury or property damage.

“To cut the power or warn us where we could throw our main breaker would’ve been a good thing, or afterwards saying there’s a surge, you might want to check your stuff, but nobody did that,” Durham said.

“For NES to say it’s not their fault. Well, whose is it? Whose fault is it?” Pruitt-Gaines said. “I don’t see how they can calculate that we’re responsible when they’re doing a repair. They’re the ones that initiated the pole falling and however they were fixing it and chose not to.”

Neighbors said they don’t blame the workers who came out to fix the pole, they just want NES to take some responsibility.

“This is a system error that occurred to four neighbors,” Pruitt-Gaines said. “In the case that damage does occur, then they’re responsible in my mind.”

NES said it always notifies customers of the date(s) and times of any scheduled outages that it has planned to conduct maintenance work that may temporarily affect power in their area. Whenever crews are working, NES said it asks that customers do not distract them, ask to take photos and to pay attention to barriers that have been set up by NES for their protection.

News4 reached out to NES with a series of questions about the incident:

News4: Given the fact that NES was working on a bad pole, why did you not notify residents that 1) you were in the area 2) that the power may need to be turned off during their work?

NES: Because this specific incident involved an urgent pole replacement that was in a challenging location. The first step was simply getting the hole dug and the new pole installed. If transfers need to be done immediately, the standard practice is to knock on doors and let customers know we will be de-energizing the lines to make the transfers.

News4: Will NES offer residents any kind of financial compensation due to the unexpected power surge and damage that was caused?

NES: By operation of law, NES would not owe for situations like this. NES was not at fault for the incident and cannot offer financial compensation.

News4: Why were residents not notified immediately after the incident? One homeowner said that had she not been home, she would have no idea why her breakers were tripped, and her HVAC system broken.

NES: Again, when it is necessary to transfer the lines to a new pole immediately, the standard practice is to knock on doors and let customers know we will be de-energizing the lines to make the transfers. However, the line fell, causing an outage for over 200 customers before we were at the point of knocking on doors. Therefore, the immediate priority of the linemen shifted to making the necessary repairs to restore service ASAP.

News4: Moving forward, would NES engage in more rigorous consumer education about their boundaries or responsibility/potential risk of surges so that more people purchase and regularly use surge protectors?

NES: We have incorporated the important of using surge protectors as well as the risk of surges in our communications to customers, such as direct mail, emails, and social media content. In this instance, it is possible that a “whole house” surge protector could have helped in protecting the HVAC units. These surge protectors can be expensive and require a licensed electrician to install.

Customers with any questions or concerns can contact customer relations at 615-736-6900.

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