Crews from Potomac Edison, a FirstEnergy Corp. utility, are now using smart phones and laptop computers to more efficiently assess damage to the electrical system and help expedite power restoration efforts in the wake of major storm events.
When severe weather causes power outages, Potomac Edison personnel make it a priority to identify and address safety issues, such as downed wires and other hazards, as well as conducting an initial assessment of the damage to send back to dispatchers.
To help expedite this process, FirstEnergy has developed two new apps that employees can use on mobile devices to automatically enter damage information into the company's outage management system. In the past, this process relied on paper maps, hand written notes and phone calls between field responders and dispatch offices.
"The new storm restoration apps are part of our ongoing efforts to use advanced technology to enhance service reliability for customers and help reduce the duration of power outages following severe weather," said James A. Sears, Jr., FirstEnergy's president of Maryland Operations and vice president of Potomac Edison. "Because the information will automatically be transferred from the field to our utility outage management systems, these new tools should help our dispatchers prioritize hazards and direct the appropriate crews to the damaged locations where we can get the most customers restored to service in the shortest amount of time."
The new hazard app on company smart phones allows responders in the field to take photographs of damage, electronically document hazardous situations, identify trees that need to be removed before repairs can be made and provide comments about the scope of the damage, all to help clear the hazards quickly. In the event of a downed wire, the responder will remain on site to guard the area until the proper crew arrives to clear the hazard.
Once the hazard assessment is complete, repair crews can use the new damage assessment app on company laptops to develop an itemized list of materials and equipment needed to make repairs at damaged locations. The app uses a highly detailed map showing Potomac Edison circuits, complete with the location of poles, transformers and other pieces of electrical equipment.
More than 200 Potomac Edison employees have been trained to use the new apps and have been issued company smart phones or laptops for use during storms.
The new apps have been deployed at all of FirstEnergy's utilities, which can help speed the restoration process when crews from one FirstEnergy utility travel to another to provide mutual assistance following severe weather.