Automated Damage Assessment and the Art of Reducing Power Restoration Times

With straight-line winds between 75 and 80 mph and flood-level rains, the severe thunderstorm that hit the city of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and surrounding areas on June 11, 2001, changed me forever.

In just 30 minutes time, the storm left 99 percent of Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) customers without power, 15 of 17 electrical feeders locked out, and 25 percent of the area’s trees blown down or uprooted  – blocking roads and destroying homes, vehicles,and power lines. The storm also left me to help pick up the pieces. I was two years out of college and responsible for managing the massive power restoration effort.

In the days that followed, we brought power back to effected areas with a home-grown outage management system. Most of the other tools we used were manual and paper-based. The damage assessment that we conducted used paper map books printed from GIS. When the assessors would return at the end of the day, very little of the assessment results ever got into the hands of crew dispatchers. The crew management used whiteboards and spreadsheets. We did the best we could with the tools that we had at the time, but it was a very manual process.

In the years that followed, I became deeply involved with storm planning procedures, visiting other sites to help during storms, establishing policies and processes, and becoming a technical and strategic expert on outage management. Eventually we moved away from the existing OMS and chose a COTS outage management system from Intergraph. I was fortunate enough to manage the implementation as the client lead. The OMS was a great success and even though I had developed a passion for outage management, I still believed that automating utility damage assessment processes was the best path to complement the OMS toward the goal of reducing power restoration times.

After my days as a field engineer, I moved into a consulting role for Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure, which kept me engaged with outage management, now on a broader scale. I travel the world meeting with utilities to analyse their storm processes and determine how technology can help streamline those processes through automation.

Over the course of the last decade, I have witnessed first-hand that many electric utility providers are still using manual, paper-based data collection processes, outdated map books, or custom, in-house applications for damage assessment. These methods provide little real-time feedback to the storm supervisor during the assessment process, and any information collected must be manually entered into the OMS.

Over the past year, we have been able to take the concept of damage assessment automation and turn it into reality. We developed Intergraph Damage Assessment working with a select group of customers to extensively test it in real-conditions and severe weather scenarios. With expectations to improve customer service and reduce restoration times at an all-time high for electric utility companies, Intergraph Damage Assessment is a game changer.

Today, we released Intergraph Damage Assessment, an application that enables end-to-end automation of the entire post-storm damage assessment process. Intergraph Damage Assessment can be used for simple outage patrols, as well as in times of devastating storm damage, making it an everyday solution that maximizesreturn on investment for electric utility companies.

Intergraph Damage Assessment’s integrated components originate in the storm room and extend to the field and back for a complete, automated solution. Supervisors can assign utility damage assessment work and visualize and analyse up-to-date data from a web-based application. Field crews using tablets can perform assessments against GIS network facility data and send results back in real-time.

Now as we announce to the world that we have released Intergraph Damage Assessment, it feels like a career accomplishment to have this come to fruition. With persistence on this concept, enabled by detailed requirements and powered by a lot of hard work, I am extremely proud of our team effort to develop this new solution.

For more information on Intergraph Damage Assessment’s capabilities and features, please visit our product page. To read more about my two-decade journey to bring this concept to market, you can read the full story on my Energy Central Blog.

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