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5 major delays to your storm response caused by paper and offline systems

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05 August 2015

Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate with the wishes of those tasked with keeping the lights on (and the rates low), and the pressure on electric utilities to respond fast to storm damage is greater than ever. Few factors impact restoration time and cost more than inefficient or non-existent damage assessment. Many utilities still rely on paper maps and offline systems which present glaring challenges during storm response events.

1. Lack of real-time information – Storm directors need access to real-time information during storm outages. Waiting on damage assessors and line personnel to call in with assessment data is both inefficient and costly. Relying on paper map or electronic, offline-only systems impedes access to critical information in real-time, thus delaying service restoration. A damage assessment application that runs online and updates the storm center with up-to-the-minute assessment notes gives the storm director the ability to make critical decisions faster using the latest information. 

2. Inability to perform targeted assessment – During storms, priorities change. Having the ability to push real-time data—such as the location of the next assessment area or outage—to each assessor is essential. Many of today’s damage assessment programs rely on damage assessors returning to the office with maps or offline data and then leaving with their next assignment. And once they leave the office with their next assignment, it is very difficult to reroute them to another assignment or area since the only map they may have of field assets is for the original assignment.During major storms, every moment counts; these types of inefficiencies create significant delays in storage restoration. With an online damage assessment application, assignments can be updated and received in the field by the assessor, creating a much more efficient and streamlined communications process. 

3. Inability to integrate with outage management system (OMS) – Paper systems and applications that only run in an offline mode are incapable of integrating with the OMS system and feeding data directly into the storm center. This can be costly due to mistakes made while translating written data from paper map systems and integrating them manually into the OMS system. With seamless integration from damage assessment to the OMS, priority work can be determined based on the level of damage on a case by case basis. 

4. Inability to estimate material needs and delivery – Having materials available when needed during a storm is imperative to quick and efficient storm outage restoration. With paper map and offline-only systems, material ordering and delivery systems lack integration. Access to real-time information allows more time to understand what is needed, and more time to review current stock levels and make arrangements to order more material if needed. A damage assessment application that integrates with the material management system also eliminates the need to manually enter data into the system, which can also cause delay.

5. Inability to set realistic expectations about service restoration – In today’s electric utility landscape, information is everything. Executives, regulators, and customers demand information about the storm outage restoration progress, and how long they can expect to be without power so they can make informed decisions. With an online damage assessment solution, storm directors have access to real-time status updates to fully understand the progress of all efforts being made by personnel so they can provide accurate and detailed information to executives, regulators, and customers.

Technology advances have yielded solutions for utilities that can vastly improve the efficiency of damage assessment.

If your utility is still relying on paper maps or offline systems during storm events, it may be time to consider upgrading to an online damage assessment solution – one that can streamline information from multiple sources, provide real-time status updates to help storm directors make more informed decisions, and ultimately, help to restore service faster. To find out about Ubisense's solution, click here.