HARTFORD -- Legislative hearings on the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene began Monday morning with promises from legislative leaders that their role is to prepare for the next big storm, not point the blame for week-long power outages.

"We are here to examine Connecticut's readiness and response," said Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, acknowledging that many people from throughout the state complained about week-long outages or more.

"The purpose of this public hearing is to transform those frustrations into action steps that will make us better prepared next time," Williams said.

"What can we learn from it? What can we do better?" said Speaker of the House Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden. "We're here to say okay, we thought we were prepared. We thought we had a good response. But what can we do better."

Jeff Butler, president and CEO of Connecticut Light & Power Co., said that planning for the storm began six days before it hit during the weekend of August 27 and that contractors were "heavily" relied upon, to restore power.

"Storm Irene was the worst in Connecticut state history," Butler said of a nine-day period that mobilized 7,500 company workers and contractors who overall, handled the 15,000 trouble spots "very well" including 1,300 broken poles.

"Public safety becomes a very significant aspect of this," Butler told lawmakers during the first of two days of testimony before a joint hearing of legislative committees including Public Safety and Energy & Technology.

He said that hospitals, fire and police department were the first priorities for power restoration, followed by town centers and schools, many of which became shelters in some towns.

"I do believe we had a strong response to this storm," he said, noting that 671,000 customers lost power due to the high winds and flooding. "Resources were effectively deployed, once we had them," Butler said.

James P. Torgerson, president and CEO of United Illuminating Holdings Co. said he believes that the utility reacted appropriately, but there are plans to invest up to $15 million over the next several years to improve communications with customers and community leaders.

John Prete, UI's senior vice president for electric transmission and distribution, said planning began seven days in advance of the storm event, but 10,300 locations were affected by outages and were eventually addressed by 363 repair crews.

He called it "mind-boggling" that there were no injuries during the repair process.

He said the underground Congress Street substation in Bridgeport was de-energized as a precaution against a tidal surge on Saturday, then assessed and re-energized.