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ComEd denies responsibility for power outage, surge in Oak Lawn

By Laura Bollin

A power outage caused by a raccoon earlier this month in Oak Lawn was an “act of God,” according to ComEd, and the electric company is denying responsibility for any damages incurred by the 1,000-plus residents who were affected by the situation.

Village officials, meanwhile, plan to meet with ComEd representatives and residents in early April to further discuss the matter. Two representatives from ComEd met with about 25 Oak Lawn residents last Wednesday. ComEd will analyze each claim of damages on an individual basis, said Oak Lawn village manager Larry Deetjen.

The power outage and subsequent power surge that Oak Lawn village officials claim overwhelmed surge protectors and damaged electronic equipment such as televisions and computers occurred early in the morning March 10 in an area bounded by 87th and 99th streets and Cicero and Central avenues. ComEd claims 1,044 customers were affected by the outage. The Oak Lawn police and fire departments received calls from residents about the smell of smoke in their homes, village officials have said.

“It is clear that those who attended the meeting experienced damage to appliances, like their refrigerators, ovens, DVD and Blu-Ray players, computers and television sets,” Deetjen said. “Some people had very sophisticated and expensive surge protectors, but they were not helpful. Some of their devices were permanently damaged by the surge, which is extremely frustrating.”

Oak Lawn Trustee Alex Olejniczak said he has visited residents who had had appliances fried by the power surge that followed the outage, and claims some people incurred as much as $6,000 worth of damage.

At the neighborhood meeting planned for next month, residents will be able to hear ComEd’s assessment of the outage and why it occurred, Deetjen said.

“We don’t want to get people’s hopes up,” Deetjen said. “It is common across the country [that] for acts of God the power company is not liable. It has to be a human error in terms of operating the system, poor maintenance or inadequate equipment. At this point, they’re taking the position that they have no liability.”

Residents can fill out claim forms in case it is determined ComEd was responsible. Claim forms can be found on Oak Lawn’s website, oaklawn-il.gov.