FirstEnergy Corp. is introducing a new program using technology to help customers stay on top of power outages and access to their company accounts.
The Akron-based parent of Ohio Edison and 10 utility companies in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia and Maryland is unveiling alert notifications via email or text messages that can tell customers about billing information, weather conditions that may impact electrical service and updates on reported outages.
“Our new alerts and text messaging service provides customers with a simple and convenient way to receive the most current information related to their electric service, right in their inbox or on their mobile devices,” said Ronald I. Green, vice president of customer service.
FirstEnergy spokeswoman Tricia Ingraham said the company wanted to find ways to get customers information they might otherwise need to call for. Instead, they can do it on their cellphones.
“We understand people are carrying around these phones all day long. They expect to get personal information. This is a way to put all of that information right in their hands,” she said.
In addition to its customer service telephone representatives, FirstEnergy now offers these different methods of communication with customers:
• A free mobile app for iPhone and Android smartphones (not iPads or Blackberry). Search for “FirstEnergy.”
• A mobile website accessible using smartphone Internet browsers can be found at www.firstenergycorp.com.
• A regular Internet website, also at www.firstenergycorp.com.
• Text messaging service for customers to report and get updates on outages and get billing information from any text-capable cellphone or smartphone. Text REG or “544487” or “LIGHTS” or go online through www.firstenergycorp.com/connect to register. You will need your account number. If available, the text messages back from the utility will give estimated time of restoration and a cause of the outage.
• Email alerts can be sent for functions from billing to outages to severe weather alerts. Again, register at www.firstenergycorp.com/connect.
• An interactive map of power outages, which can allow customers to see parts of a community that are affected and the number of accounts affected. The maps, updated every 15 minutes, can be found on the mobile website, through the mobile app and online at www.firstenergycorp.com/outages.
The company is continuing to work on improvements to all of its technology, including refining the outage map for more details.
Technology and outage information that customers receive when calling are dependent on the customers reporting the outage, said Ingraham. The company still needs to know when customers are experiencing outages and when service is restored.
The utility encourages all customers to report outages and these methods make it easier, she said.
The technology will let customers know when “repairs are completed,” said Ingraham. Repairs could be completed but electricity might not be restored if there is a problem within a particular residence.
Dominion East Ohio does not offer any similar alerts or technology for natural gas outages, said spokesman Neil Durbin. The natural gas utility typically doesn’t have mass outages, he said. In an outage situation, customers should call Dominion’s emergency number at 1-877-542-2630.
FirstEnergy’s call center is also still available at 888-LIGHTSS (888-544-4877) to report an outage. The company also provides updates on service outages via Twitter, but customers cannot report individual outages on that service.