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make a phone call through an automated phone system, which sometimes can be frus- trating when you have an emergency.” After her power was restored, Coble said she


logged on to the outage map to check on friends and family. “It was the fi rst thing I did once I was able to turn a computer on to check—it was another relief to be able to see for myself they had service where I could call them at home and make sure they were okay,” she added. Indian Electric Cooperative (IEC) in


Cleveland, Okla., began using advanced out- age management technology internally in 2008. That’s when third-party software devel- opers unleashed a version that could success- fully sync the co-op’s core systems. “Integration was the key piece,” said Don Lawrence, IEC information technology man- ager. “A lot goes into outage management for it to work. Our biggest challenge was, and still is, mapping. OMS relies on an electrical engi- neering module to do predictions. Without that, it’s just a database for corrections.” What Lawrence refers to is OMS’ ability to “see” down the line and show the most likely source of the problem. For the best results, each system’s fuse, transformer, circuit break- er, power pole and substation should be digi- tally mapped using GIS and GPS technology. The process can take years to perfect but is integral to OMS accuracy. With the digitized map, an advanced OMS can log an outage report via phone, interactive voice recorder, text or mobile app, and register the outage location on the map. Next, the sys- tem “pings” the meter from the offi ce, deter- mining if there is load on a meter and if the problem is a blown fuse inside the home, or something larger that warrants a dispatch team. Once the system verifi es that an outage


exists, it begins checking devices downstream to isolate the possible fault location. In the co-op control room, this information displays in seconds on a video wall that can be zoomed, sliced and diced to show all fuses, tap lines, circuits, feeders, and substations. For electric co-ops, it is an arterial web of vital informa- tion that even includes automatic vehicle lo- cation (AVL). Verdigris Valley Electric Cooperative


(VVEC) in Collinsville, Okla., plans to up- grade to AVL this year. The technology will allow the co-op to track the location of crews via moving icons on their system map, and make more informed decisions on how to re- route power during storm restoration or rou- tine maintenance. During a serious power outage, the electric cooperative control center hums with the in- tensity of a government war room. Operations personnel monitor the situation and dispatch crews and resources with a strategy focused on one aim: conquer darkness. As lights on the electronic map shift from red to green, it’s not unusual to hear cheers erupting from the con- trol center. Progress is being made. It’s a long way from the old days when a paper map cluttered with colored pushpins marked outage locations, and long tables lined the co-op offi ce hallways piled high with stack upon stack of paper outage reports. Gary Yarbrough, VVEC mapping technician, be- lieves the technological evolution is nothing short of man’s walk on the moon. “For electric co-ops to go from black and white lines on paper to this type of advanced electronic mapping—this is our giant leap,” he said. To learn about your co-op’s outage technol-


ogy, contact your local rural electric coopera- tive.


“For electric co-ops to go from black and white lines on paper to this type


of advanced electronic mapping—this is our giant leap.” - Gary Yarbrough, VVEC mapping technician


Most Oklahoma co-ops (dark green) work with varying adaptations of advanced outage management technology, some including advanced meter infrastructure, mobile app, texting and interactive voice recording. Four Oklahoma co-ops (light green) have plans to implement Outage Management System technology in the near future.


Always On


Power failures spark intense levels of communication between electric co-ops and their members, making outage management technology the perfect jumping-off spot for “always on” communications. A survey of electric utility consumers in the U.S. by market research fi rm Accenture found that 71 percent of consumers would opt for digital notices during a power outage. A similar survey from J.D. Power found that customer messaging, alert notifi ca- tions and other proactive communica- tions result in higher customer satisfac- tion scores for utilities.


“By offering mobile apps and giving our members the option to communicate with us using social media, email or telephone, we are simply trying to meet our members where they are,” said Zach Perkins, chief operating offi cer for Tri-County Electric Cooperative in Hooker, Okla. As a co-op, TCEC is guided by values that put member needs at the center of its programs and services. Today, this means connecting with members across many digital channels around the clock.


MARCH 2015 7


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