Keys to successful storm response


How can utilities plan and prepare for the unpredictable nature of a superstorm? According to Jeff Lewis, a member of of PA Consulting Group and a ReliabilityOne program director, successful storm response is managed through "a combination of people, organization, process and technology."

Lewis breaks his philosophy down further:

  • People involves providing sufficient staffing coverage to meet the challenges, while ensuring workers are appropriately trained for safety and effectiveness
  • Organization involves the appropriate mix of centralized communications and decentralized restoration, whereby the utility mobilizes multiple storm response centers across its affected service region, with adequate backups and redundancies across all levels to deal with the unexpected
  • Process involves the effective and efficient performance of the entire operation including information flows and communications, logistic (e.g., accommodations and materials), damage assessment, packaging and prioritization of work, crew complement and dispatch, safety, and coordination of mutual aid.
  • Technology involves the systems, tools, and equipment that facilitate the efficient restoration of customers and the effective communication of accurate information to all stakeholders.

For utilities, being strategic in the preparation and planning for major storms improves restoration times, minimizes risks to public safety, and enhances public perception of the utility, as the extreme weather impacts from Hurricanes Sandy and Irene over the past two years have shown. Regulators are responding in an unprecedented manner, according to Lewis, requiring utilities to improve all aspects of their restoration practices, including readiness, communications and outage reporting, and restoration.

Given the duration of this major event, "Customers, regulators and public officials are focused on the estimated time to restoration, which is when a customer can expect to have power. This is the single most important piece of information a utility can provide under these circumstances," said Lewis.

Without Lewis's winning combination of people, organization, process and technology, how did most utilities fare?

"According to our analysis of Hurricane Sandy, 5 of 10 utilities across the Tri-State area restored power to over 90 percent of their customers within seven days, whereas after Hurricane Irene all 10 utilities had restored at least 90 percent of customers within a week. This demonstrates the tremendous power and impact of Superstorm Sandy, which affected approximately seven million customers in the Tri-State area, compared to Irene which affected nearly four million," said Lewis, who has completed more than 100 reviews of electric reliability systems and processes, such as emergency response plans for major events.

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