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Canyon Country man joins utility’s storm relief effort

Resident helps in East

Posted: November 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: November 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Rick Romero, of Canyon Country, a volunteer from Southern California Edison, talks logistics with Edison's Melissa Amador at a Red Cross Shelter in New York.

Canyon Country resident Rick Romero has been trained by the American Red Cross to aid residents in an emergency. But nothing, he says, prepared him for dealing with survivors of Superstorm Sandy.

“I’ve never seen anything like this — nothing comes close,” said Romero, a Southern California Edison safety and environmental specialist who was among about 120 employees the utility sent to the East Coast.

“I saw families that have lost everything. They are in distress and in panic,” Romero said during an interview with The Signal last week.

Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast in late October, causing massive damage, flooding and more than 100 deaths.

For more than a week, Romero’s team of five worked in Red Cross shelters on Staten Island and Brooklyn, New York boroughs hit hard by the storm.

They distributed emergency aid and staffed shelters for residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed in the storm. Many of those residents remained without electricity 14 days after the storm moved ashore.

“I think the most important thing we did was listen to people, hear their stories, as well as provide them shelter and a meal ... to let people know that we cared,” Romero said. “There are a lot of people in New York we now have in our thoughts and prayers.”

In addition to aid workers like Romero, Edison sent repair crews and equipment to assist Consolidated Edison Company of New York, known as Con Edison, in repairing damage caused by Superstorm Sandy.

“We sent linemen and tree trimmers as well,” said Romero. “We also sent vehicles.”

But the utility paid the salaries of Romero and others not to work for Con Edison, but to help in the Red Cross shelters.

Besides the labor, Edison sent nearly 80 repair vehicles. The convey was flown by the U.S. Air Force from March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County on C-5 and C-17 transport cargo aircraft to New York.

President Barack Obama requested Edison’s assistance and authorized the airlift. Plans originally called for a ground convoy, which would have taken four days to get to the storm-ravaged coast.

Romero said witnessing the devastation of Sandy reminds him that residents of Southern California need to be prepared for a disaster, like an earthquake.

“I don’t think people are really prepared,” he said. “Here, you see the lines for gas,” he said in an interview while driving from New York to New Jersey.

“People don’t have firewood to heat their homes. They had candles and flashlights, but nothing to keep the place warm.”

Romero said some people with generators were running them in garages, exposing residents to the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.

“There are a lot of opportunities here for education,” he said.

Among the more heart-wrenching moments for Romero was a discussion he had with a woman staying at one of the shelters.

“She was a nice lady, a doctor, and after speaking with her for two hours you could hear the stress in her voice,” he said. “Everything was gone and she didn’t know what she was going to do.”

Lauren Bartlett, a spokeswoman for Edison, said the utility assessed its staffing capacity to ensure sufficient personnel remained in Southern California to support its own system.

Southern California Edison will donate $1 to the American Red Cross relief efforts for every “like” received on its Facebook page,, and new followers on its Twitter account,



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