It’s almost getting to be that time of year again-when warm, moist air from the ocean’s surface rises, forming an area of lower pressure that begins swirling due to converging with equatorial winds. On a small scale you develop a thunderstorm, on a large scale you may form hurricanes.
According to a USA Today article, weather forecasts have predicated this hurricane season to be “above-average,” with 18 tropical storms- nine of those being hurricanes. As nerve wrecking as this sounds, for utilities, it only takes that one bad storm to cause chaos.
While it’s important for residents to have a storm preparation list, it’s paramount for utilities to have a game plan in place ahead of time for all possible scenarios.
As a thunderstorm builds into a hurricane, it goes through three stages:
1.) Tropical Depression- wind speed less than 38 miles per hour
2.) Tropical Storm- wind speeds at 39-73 miles per hour
3.) Hurricane- wind speeds greater than 74 miles per hour
Right now you could say it’s the “calm before the storm.” The pleasant spring weather is here, the sun is shining and flowers are blossoming. But this is the time when utilities should ready themselves for what potentially lies ahead. Having a Before the Storm, During the Storm and After the Storm Plan could make a significant difference in the outcome.
One of the struggles utilities face during storm preparation and response is securing the correct amount of materials needed without overbuying while in panic mode. By establishing relationships with key vendors who can help the situation, assures they will have plenty of material in inventory to serve them in an emergency situation, allowing the Utility to procure only items required as they determine their needs.
Utilities face even more pressure from their customers and politicians to get electrical service back on line in the quickest amount of time. By having a Critical Needs List including items such as poles, crossarms, hardware, insulators, conductor, squeeze-ons, splices and transformers, helps to ensure a smooth and timely recovery.
It’s a good idea for utilities to also implement a trigger mechanism based on the path and strength of the storm so they’ll know when to act, which can eliminate potential costly delays for recovery. Utilities can also be better prepared by standardizing their products as much as possible, and by approving alternate ahead of time so that they don’t lose valuable time once they are engaged.
Ensuring safety is the number one priority. It’s important that all personnel remain out of harm’s way during the worst moments, and that all safety procedures are followed during the reconstruction process.
Next, utilities need to ensure that strong lines of communication are established between local emergency services and authorities, utility users and their vendors. One critical tactic that utilities should implement is to have a storm response team with members designated to handle each of the key responsibilities. The qualified person should have experience, product knowledge and have established relationships with key contacts or component vendors long before the potential event.