To invest in any new technology, utility leaders need to see evidence that it can deliver real results. Otherwise, it’s hard to justify a budget line item. Fortunately, there is no problem proving what a modern outage management system (OMS) can accomplish for providers. These software tools revolutionize the way utilities respond to interruptions and disruptions to service, easing these make-or-break moments with an infusion of speed and agility.

Maintaining the uninterrupted flow of information is a major feature of an OMS, and the knock-on effects of this data availability are extremely impactful. An outage response accomplished with an OMS can be handled in a confident way, with fewer interstitial steps and more direct resolution of underlying issues.

Outages remain frequent: Effective responses are needed

One of the primary reasons why an OMS is such a critical investment for any utility organization is the likely frequency with which that company will have to face outage conditions. The latest data from the Energy Information Administration, reflecting the 2018 numbers, revealed that electricity customers in the U.S. lost power for an average of 5.8 hours during the course of the year.

While average numbers are valuable as a general gauge of how often utility service is lost, the EIA prefaced the release of the figures by stating that each region’s power loss events will vary significantly in length and number. Factors such as weather patterns and age of infrastructure will determine how susceptible an area is to utility interruptions. With that said, every area around the country and the world has to consider effective restoration strategies.

Using an OMS is one of the surest ways to do something about the risk of outages. With one of these systems in place, providers will be ready to respond to problems of all sizes, causes and durations, collecting information that will help them coordinate their corrective actions. The fact that disruptions are so different from one another adds importance to this data gathering and analysis process. Teams have to know exactly what they are dealing with to make a quick recovery, and the variety of potential problems is vast.

A response with an OMS is smoother

Coordinating the response to an outage with an OMS is a more efficient process than dealing with the problem using legacy methods. This is largely due to the steps that can be omitted when so much vital information is flowing automatically to and from sources such as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and geographic information systems (GIS). Many of the least productive and most time-consuming parts of the response process can be safely phased out.

For instance, a lack of data when using outdated methods may have forced utilities to dispatch field crews on exploratory jobs, driving to the sites of possible infrastructure failures to find the source of a given outage. When office personnel can ping specific locations from within the OMS interface, determining the status of resources, they gain a much more accurate view of where to send their crews, no exploratory activity needed.

The linemen are guided to the source of the problem using accurate maps that plot the exact site of disruption. Once the crew members appear on the scene and get to work on solving the breakdown, they can file updates on their progress using the OMS’s own mobile interface, using work tickets to note the status of infrastructure or declare a job done. Seeing such an update, office teams can send new pings to the affected parts of the grid to determine whether they are now operational.

Challenging times will continue

While there is never a good time to experience a utility outage, recent months have shown just how essential it is to keep power, water and gas operational during a global crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic. A more effective outage resolution scheme powered by an OMS can assist organizations in these difficult circumstances and the months to come.

“The COVID-19 pandemic shows how, now more than ever, the reliable, resilient and cost-effective delivery of electrical energy is critical for our society,” said Frank Lambert, president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Power and Energy Society. 

Decisive action informed by real-time data lets providers serve their customers seamlessly and keep their employees safer by enabling them to spend less time on the job, and in proximity to one another. Legacy procedures based on in-person meetings and exchanges of information as paper files have serious drawbacks compared to the more digitally enabled model that comes with a modern OMS deployment.

The up-to-date DataVoice OMS can help a utility provider cope with the many challenges that occur during service restoration – view customer success stories to see how organizations have already made this transformation to their operations.

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