Power lines surging with electricity.

When an outage strikes your utility service, how will your team respond? Will your office be able to handle the influx of calls? Will your field crews be able to get to the location of the problem quickly? Is there a system in place to make sure they know where to go immediately?

These are the kinds of questions to think about far in advance — and there’s one more that may be the most important of all: What can you do to predict and prevent outages in the first place?

No matter what questions you’re asking yourself about outage response and prevention, the answer is the same: You can build preparedness with an outage management system (OMS). A new, technology-focused approach to understanding your infrastructure will help you stay one step ahead of trouble.

Improve every aspect of outage preparedness

The core of an OMS is the ability to process and present data. This software tool can become the main way for employees to view information about the status of utility infrastructure. By integrating the OMS with the organization’s geographic information systems (GIS), it’s possible to map out problems and develop better strategies for not just responding to problems, but anticipating them.

When determining which areas of the power grid, water main system or fiber infrastructure to work on next, it pays to have current and accurate data about where issues and interruptions have occurred. To a large extent, using a modern OMS is all about reducing guesswork. When your utility has an effective OMS deployment, you can be sure of what has happened in the recent past, setting your office team up to predict and prevent future issues.

OMS and GIS integration can also help utilities organize their vegetation management programs. Dispatching crews and tracking progress via a digital interface, plotted on an interactive map, is an effective way to determine which areas need attention and which have been serviced recently. If outages and vegetation management are all handled through the same interface, it’s easy to see correlations.

When performing important maintenance work on the grid, it’s sometimes necessary to shut down service. Alerting customers about these planned outages is another powerful capability of a modern OMS. Integration between the OMS and an interactive voice response solution (IVR) allows office staff to automatically prepare customers for planned outages. This, in turn, can spare the worries that come with surprise service loss, and prevent customers from calling in and clogging the phone lines, asking when power, water or broadband will come back.

Cope with infrastructure issues by staying one step ahead

Preventive care and proactive maintenance are important for utilities because of the very real risk of infrastructure breaking down. Both power grids and water mains are aging, with overall wear and tear leading to increased risk of failure.

Being able to track past issues and craft informed maintenance strategies is an essential part of operating an electric or water utility today. With limited access to resources needed for upkeep, organizations need to focus their maintenance efforts where they’ll do the most good. An OMS’s easily available data makes it the perfect tool for the job.

While fiber utilities are not dealing with the same issues as electricity and water — most of their infrastructure is new, after all — they still need an accurate view of past and present failures. New equipment that is just coming online requires close attention, so it pays to have an OMS in place as fiber grids expand to new homes and businesses.

Whether infrastructure is new or old, there is one factor that has an outsized impact on reliability and downtime: extreme weather. With powerful storms becoming a frequent threat, utilities can benefit from the valuable information available through an OMS. In coastal areas this may mean hurricanes or floods. Inland, tornadoes and fires might be more threatening. In all cases, dangerous weather means infrastructure risk, which calls for OMS deployment as a countermeasure.

Connect multiple systems within a utility office

An OMS is a natural addition to your utility’s technology lineup as you modernize operations. Too many organizations are stuck with paper processes, tracking outages and related issues on paper maps. In today’s fast-moving world, where customers expect fast responses to problems despite the numerous threats facing utility infrastructure, relying on legacy processes is a major disadvantage.

In the name of better customer service and an overall more efficient approach to protecting infrastructure, it’s time for utilities of all kinds to make the leap to a modern OMS. The power of such an OMS comes from both the software’s own capabilities and its integration with other technology tools. Superior customer contact via an IVR, accurate GIS mapping, data coming directly from advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) — these advantages and more are available to utilities that upgrade.

Read dataVoice International success stories to see how other utilities have made a modern OMS an integral part of their outage prevention and response efforts.

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