Nothing gets in the way of business as usual like a winter storm. Snow, ice, winds and bitterly cold temperatures converge to create outages that can last for days. However, with the right planning, it's possible to get ahead of potential storms.
Prepare an emergency response plan that includes storm-related inventory that is ready to go as soon as it’s needed.
FIRST, be sure repair crews have the right personal equipment and supplies onsite and ready for use. These crews are often sent out as the storm is raging, so it’s important they have emergency supplies, including layers of fire-resistant clothing, a generator, fresh batteries, plenty of bottled water, flashlights and other portable lighting.
NEXT, emergency response materials can be prepared to fit any scale. These include storm kits with pre-stocked kitting solutions or complete emergency supply trailers for large emergencies. One solution in particular is the use of storm pods, which look like shipping containers. Storm pods can be stored onsite or offsite in a nearby facility. As Scott Talley, Manager of Alliance Development for Anixter, explains, “These pods can be mobilized easily and deployed to an area that has the highest potential to be affected by a storm.” For instance, if a major storm is anticipated to hit somewhere in the Midwest on Sunday, utilities serving the area can have storm pods ready for deployment at storage facilities in Kansas City and other locations by Friday.
The storm pods include anticipated emergency response inventory based on the predicted weather event. Typical winter storm items include fuses, auto splices, cutouts, arresters and insulators. The pods allow field crews to begin the storm restoration process within hours, even as inspectors evaluate specific items or material required to get the utility’s customers back online. “When a client is affected by a potential storm, we place everyday business on hold and focus 100 percent on that customer’s needs and issues,” Talley says. “We work with trucking lines to track shipments and update the customer constantly. We also maintain an emergency phone line that responds 24/7 to customer needs.”
THEN, while reports from the field are relayed back to a central command center, inventories, availability, lead times and coordinated solutions with manufacturers can be synchronized for the second phase of emergency response material delivery. “Utilities are held to a high standard these days when it comes to outage response time,” states Talley. “Customers will certainly not take unpreparedness as an excuse for being left in the cold.”