After storms that have left Bowie area residents in the dark as electricity sputtered out, one neighborhood is trying to take power back in their lives.
Residents of the Woodmore Highlands community are looking at buying and installing generators as backup power supplies in the case of power outages. The effort comes as Prince George’s County emergency personnel say that across the county, area residents are taking similar steps despite the fact that improper use of some generators can be fatal.
About a dozen members of the Woodmore Highlands Homeowner Association, which includes around 100 homes, met with a generator wholesaler Oct. 8 to discuss options.
The meeting was set up by the HOA after they, like most of Bowie, were left without power for days following the June 29 derecho that hit the mid-Atlantic, leaving many without power. Even before that storm, the neighborhood had issues with reliable power, said Rafael Ocasio, president of the Woodmore Highland Homeowner Association.
“In our community, every year there are power outages,” Ocasio said.
Prince George’s County first responders, however, have worried for some time about increased used of portable generators causing risks, said Mark Brady, spokesman for the county Fire/EMS department. Generators create hazards for not only fires, but carbon monoxide backing up and making people ill or killing them, he said.
“We do have concerns,” he said. “With the higher number of usage we have seen a higher number of [carbon monoxide] issues.”
Although Bowie residents might feel they lose power frequently, records from the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company, which maintains the lines in the Bowie area show that the area’s power supply is fairly stable, said Rachael Lighty, a spokeswoman for BGE. The average BGE customer in Bowie has experienced about 1.6 outages and been without power for about 39 hours between January and August 2012.
Across BGE’s 1.2 million customers, on average they have experienced 1.3 outages and were without service for about 25 hours, Lighty said. If the derecho is taken out of both figures then both city residents and all BGE customers have both experienced only about one outage on average and been without power for around an hour, Lighty said.
“Bowie's overall reliability has been the same or in many places better than the system average,” she said.
But Ocasio worries about a potential power loss, he said. The power loss heightened concerns about how Ocasio, who is wheelchair bound, would get up and down his house without power to an indoor lift, or care for his elderly mother-in-law who lives with him, he said.
Additionally, the power loss following the derecho caused him to lose multiple Koi fish in his backyard garden as his filter shut down.
“I'm a disabled veteran and for me I need electricity to get up and around the house,” Ocasio said.