It seems that large-scale natural disasters such as hurricanes, massive wildfires, and tornadoes are lining up for a chance to pounce on us. Their succession of occurrence reminds us we need to be ready for the worst. For public utilities, that means being ready to implement efficient and effective outage response and service restoration – and often that means starting even before the storm is over.
Many utilities have traded in their old paper maps, for enterprise geographic information systems, or GIS, that have the ability to reflect even the most recent engineering and construction updates. The GIS is centralized, allowing for immediate and secure access by everyone who needs utility network information – be it in the CEO’s office or in the field truck. For utilities managing multiple services, a single enterprise GIS eliminates the need for individual asset management systems for electric, telecom, gas, and water networks.
Coupled with state-of-the-art weather data providing timely alerts, such as color-coded threat levels to the service territory, the enterprise GIS allows utility-wide identification of what critical assets and customers are in danger. The utility can implement shutoffs in an isolated manner to minimize the number of affected customers. It can begin planning to ensure adequate crews and equipment are mobilized – including contractor crews from other utilities offering assistance – and that materials are available to repair damage. It can plan rapid service restoration or rerouting of services around damaged assets and precisely control and track service status.
In the event of emergency, perhaps the most powerful return on the investment in an enterprise GIS is that the utility can share its accurate infrastructure data with first responders, fire authorities, emergency management groups, and public officials who assist in planning and response. Instead of waiting for the storm to pass, the enterprise GIS can make every minute count by helping decision makers triage the deployment of resources.