Two Ways Mobile Technology Improves Outage Restoration Time

During 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, the U.S. suffered through 16 catastrophic weather events. These included three of the five costliest and most destructive hurricanes on record. Not only did these storms cost hundreds of billions of dollars, they also caused massive outages. Of the top five power losses in the nation’s history, 2017’s Hurricane Irma is number four, causing 35 million people to lose power, according to NOAA. And those numbers don’t even take into account other types of destructive storm events, such as cyclones and blizzards.

As large storms become more frequent and destructive, utilities are under pressure to assess and repair the damage quickly, keep customers updated in real time and minimize power outage restoration time. Rugged mobile devices help utilities meet this challenge, allowing them to withstand these harsh conditions. With rugged tablets, handhelds, and laptops, utility workers already have an ideal platform to build on—one with reliable 4G LTE, WiFi, Satellite GPS, and Bluetooth connectivity that keeps you connected wherever you need to go.

Rugged mobile devices and reliable connectivity give crews the tools they need to communicate with each other, report outages, prioritize repairs and request assistance. While it’s the best platform for storm response, it’s only the first layer in reducing power outage restoration time.

A Perfect Storm of Technology

Many utility companies today have workforce management systems (WMS) that can quickly communicate information to crews in the field. Typically, functions include dispatch, routing, worker and asset monitoring, and transmission of critical messages to team members.

While workforce management systems have become the backbone of communication in utilities—and are critical during emergencies—they often don’t have specific functions related to storm emergencies. One way to add important functionality is by integrating an outage management system (OMS) to the utility’s WMS, GIS systems, and customer information systems (CIS). These apps allow utility workers in the field to:

  • Predict and pinpoint outage locations and customers impacted
  • Prioritize restoration efforts
  • Calculate the estimated outage restoration time

Implementing an OMS is an important step, but it’s only part of the solution. While these systems provide critical information, they don’t provide details about the type or scope of the outage.

Real-time Insight into Damage Assessment

In the case of severe storms, damage assessment apps can provide this type of information to utilities. These mobile, map-based apps allow workers to pinpoint outage locations, report needed repairs, detail structural damage, prioritize storm crew efforts, and better estimate outage restoration time. Using mapping capabilities, these apps can direct workers to outage locations as quickly as possible. With this information, crews can more accurately estimate the time and resources it will take to complete restoration efforts.

For example, an electric utility team assessing damage from a major hurricane can use a damage assessment app to quickly compile tree, wire, and pole damage, complete with photos and comments, drop GPS breadcrumbs for each damage type, compute the estimated outage restoration time, and push location and damage data to other workers in the field.

With modern rugged mobile technology and the right applications, utilities can speed restoration while keeping customers and managers informed about the status of those repairs. As natural disasters of all types continue to break records, utility companies will rely more on these technologies to keep pace. 

For more information about how utilities can use mobile-enabled OMS/WMS systems to improve customer satisfaction during outages, read our whitepaper.