Duke Energy on hook for losses from New Bern’s power outage

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Mayor Dana Outlaw with Toussaint Summers, Chief of Police, during a badge pinning ceremony Tuesday night in New Bern. See Below for more photos.
(Photo credit: Colleen Roberts, City of New Bern)

NEW BERN – Mayor Dana Outlaw again pledged – during a meeting Tuesday night of the town aldermen – that the city would never again suffer a massive power outage like that which happened in the afternoon and evening of Dec. 19.

“I want people to know what steps New Bern is taking to ensure that an outage of this magnitude will not happen again,” said Outlaw, whose remarks prefaced a presentation by Charlie Bauschard, the city’s Director of Public Utilities.

“This was a really unique event,” said Bauschard. “We have determined that this was human error and involved a contractor working for Duke Energy.”


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That determination, which is undisputed, means that Duke Energy may well be on the hook to reimburse New Bern business owners, and even residents, for economic losses attributable to the seven-plus hour outage. New Bern buys electricity from Duke, but maintains its own distribution infrastructure.

“Only one line coming in from a wholesale power provider is a very dangerous situation,” added Bauschard, who assured Mayor Outlaw and other elected officials that his department has begun work on major improvements to ensure redundancy.

Alderman Bobby Aster made it clear that Duke Energy expects to receive a multitude of claims, as a result of the freak accident that occurred when a vegetation management crew inadvertently cut the major transmission line into town. At one point, an estimated 21,000 New Bern residents were without power.

“I think every restaurant in New Bern probably had a Christmas party that night,” said Aster. “If you suffered a loss, you should file a claim.”

Aster released the phone number for filing claims: (844) 802-2506, which rings to a call center in Lexington, Kentucky, operated by Sedgwick Claims Management Services. The Sedgwick website describes the company as follows:

Although we are not an insurance company, we manage claims on behalf of insurers and our clients. One of our adjusters will contact you to discuss the cause and extent of your damages and request any necessary additional information from you.

Wednesday morning, this newspaper first spoke with a call-screener, who had very little information about the Dec. 19 outage in New Bern. However, the woman was polite and helpful. She later transferred the call to another woman known as an ‘examiner,’ who asked for the claim number of the event, which is 3018-1624182-0001.

Brace yourself for a time-consuming exercise. But, to echo Alderman Bobby Aster’s remarks, a process now exists to reimburse New Bern residents for economic loss attributable to the Dec. 19 power outage – not an Act of God but rather an avoidable event triggered by human error.

(844) 802-2506

Claim # 3018-1624182-0001

From www.sedgwick.com:
Liability & property claims
1) Claim is reported
Although we are not an insurance company, we manage claims on behalf of insurers and our clients. One of our adjusters will contact you to discuss the cause and extent of your damages and request any necessary additional information from you.

2) Field inspection
Next, a field inspector will take measurements and determine the extent of the damage. If a business is involved, business interruption will be included in the assessment. You will receive a copy of the completed loss estimate.

New police badges – meant to commemorate the historic significance of both City Hall and the City Seal – were pinned to the uniforms of 33 officers in a brief ceremony Tuesday night.

Alderman Jeff Odham of Ward 6 interacts with one of New Bern’s finest!

Alderman Barbara Best of Ward 5 expresses the city’s appreciation to this young officer.