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Post date: June 8 2004

Niagara Mohawk Enhances Protections For Home-bound Ill

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. agreed to enhance protections for utility customers who depend on respirators, dialysis machines and other life-sustaining medical equipment at home.

Niagara Mohawk, a National Grid company, will expand efforts to identify households where individuals depend on such equipment and take special steps to assist these individuals in the event of power failures.

Spitzer commended the company for working with his office to address the matter and said: "NiMo is implementing several changes that will make it easier for the company to identify customers whose households include persons who rely on electrically-powered medical devices. With such households identified, NiMo will help people prepare for emergencies and the company itself will be better able to respond to during blackouts and other power interruptions."

Anthony Pini, senior vice president of Customer Service for Niagara Mohawk, said: "During emergencies, we contact customers who we know rely on special life-sustaining equipment at home and who may be affected by the emergency to ensure that they are getting the proper attention they need. Working with the Attorney General's office and health agencies in our service area, we have enhanced that outreach by taking extra steps to identify these customers."

Niagara Mohawk's improvements are the product of discussions initiated by the Attorney General in December 2003.

New York State law requires that electrical utilities compile lists of their residential customers whose households include someone who uses life-sustaining medical equipment at home, and that the utilities establish procedures for contacting such households within 24 hours during a power outage. The law also requires the utilities to have procedures in place to respond to the needs of such households during a power failure.

Niagara Mohawk has taken the following steps to identify its customers with special health-related needs for electric service:

Residential Electric Service Application and Intake Process. The company has modified the way it takes service applications over the telephone, to better identify new customer households that include someone who uses electrically-powered life-sustaining equipment at home.

Outreach. To identify existing customers eligible for but not yet on the company's life-sustaining equipment list, Niagara Mohawk is enhancing its outreach to the health care community, including hospitals and the distributors of life-sustaining equipment for home use.

New Customer Information Materials. The materials Niagara Mohawk sends new customers will be changed to make clear to customers whose households include someone who uses life-sustaining equipment that it is important for them to make the utility aware of their specific needs and circumstances.

Telephone Contact. During a power failure, it is crucial for life-sustaining equipment users to reach out for help and for the company to contact such households. Niagara Mohawk is revising printed customer information to urge customers to have telephones that work even if the power goes off, and to know the right numbers to call during emergencies.

Website Information. On its website Niagara Mohawk makes available information about electrically-powered life-sustaining equipment, including suggestions about how to prepare for a storm emergency, and an application customers can use to notify the company about life- sustaining equipment use.