Jan 21, 2016


Outage Management

Power Outages And Squirrels

Members of the Sciuridae family consist of small or medium-size rodents. The family includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, flying squirrels, and prairie dogs. Power outages and squirrels, those innocent looking rodents, are often a major topic of conversation.

More Than Half Of U.S. Power Outages Are Caused By What?

Popular by some for their cuteness factor, many utilities consider squirrels major threats because they are often the cause of power outages. Utility industry experts believe squirrels and related rodents are directly responsible for more than half of all U.S. power outages, often resulting in their electrocution.

Scaling Utility Poles

The furry rodents can easily scale utility poles in order to travel across power cables. Transformers and/or capacitors aren’t exempt from squirrel invasions by the little animals foraging for food or a safe place to store their nuts. To sharpen their teeth, squirrels will often chew on live power lines while taking a rest from using them as their personal high powered cross-country express lanes.

Electrocuted Squirrels

When a squirrel happens to make inappropriate contact with a power line, conductor or other high voltage equipment, they are often electrocuted.  The result?  Shorted out circuits which often completely shut down the equipment.

Under ideal circumstances, the electrical shock knocks the squirrel’s body free from the equipment (and the flow of electricity resumes), but in many instances the body of the squirrel remains lodged in the equipment triggering a continuous fault burning out circuit breakers and related utility equipment.

A good example of a squirrel triggered power outage occurred in June of 2015 in California.  A squirrel scampered into a substation in El Cerrito, California and was electrocuted. This resulted in a power outage to more than 45,000 people in the East Bay area for more than two and a half hours.

American Public Power Association Squirrel Index

The highly tenacious little critters are such a major problem for utilities the American Public Power Association (APPA) created a Squirrel Index to track rodent related outages for more than 150 public power utilities across the country. The Squirrel Index, a customer-weighted metric which represents the rate per 1,000 customers at which squirrel-related outages occur over a period of time, confirms the hypothesized peak period of squirrel activity in the warmest months of the year.

Over the years squirrels have brought down the high-tech NASDAQ stock market twice ( 1987 and 1994) and have been responsible for a spate of power outages at hundreds of utilities across the United States.

Squirrel Guards

The squirrel problem is significant enough that many utility companies have resorted to installing squirrel deterrents.

This is very good news not only for utility customers, but for the squirrels.

Utilities hit by squirrel triggered outages learn to plan for the future to minimize or prevent future power outages.

Rubber or plastic plates, or freely rotating sleeves are sometimes used to discourage squirrel access to utility facilities.

Other squirrel deterrent include rotating baffles and/or bushing to cover sensitive points on poles and transformers.

Alternative techniques may be deployed by utilities to discourage squirrels from climbing on poles and substations more prone to squirrel visitations.

Luckily, according to the APPA, as of 2014, the trend of squirrel attacks on power lines has begun to wane as utilities have taken steps to control the menace.

What To Do When Squirrel Related Power Outages Occur?

For over 20 years, utilities have been depending upon DataVoice International to help manage and prevent all types of power outages with best of breed Outage Management Software (OMS).

Not only does DataVoice help utilities manage outages, they measurably help enhance customer service.

For more information or to schedule a webinar about the DataVoice Outage Management Software and related solutions contact Deanna Sandoval at 888.328.2864 or email denna@datavoiceit.com

Note: No squirrels were harmed in the creation of this blog.

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