Last month, a mighty roar ushered in the month of March when winter storm Rocky arrived. The storm affected many across the United States and Missouri was no exception. Several of the cooperatives who felt the wrath of Rocky were NISC Members—as a result iVUE® was put to the test in some very dangerous and treacherous conditions.
A veteran lineman from Co-Mo Electric Cooperative in Tipton, Mo., said this storm was as bad as an ice storm but harder to get around. “We had 17 systems that were affected across the state when this storm hit Monday night and into Tuesday. Some of them, it didn’t take very long to get all their power back onto their members, others such as Co-Mo Electric, Howard Electric, and Boone Electric have been a little longer,” said Rob Land, Emergency-Response Coordinator with Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. “Co-Mo was the hardest hit due to the nature of their service territory and the terrain.”
Rocky knocked out 17,000 meters, damaged 760-plus pieces of equipment and broke 66 poles in less than 48 hours in Co-Mo’s territory. More than 155 men from 20 electric utilities worked with the 30-plus Co-Mo office employees to get the power back on. “One of the things Co-Mo has that some of the other electric co-op systems don’t is the technology. The outage management system that they put in place here is very unique and does speed up the process,” said Barry Hart, CEO with Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. “As we were visiting Co-Mo’s facility, we could see the outage map and see the extent of the damage, and it’s widespread. I don’t think I’ve ever seen damage over an entire co-op’s service area like we are seeing here.”
A critical element that helped Co-Mo manage response time, restoration efforts and keep members in the know was leveraging many of the latest technologies. From outage management system, maps, mobile applications to social media, Co-Mo kept everyone from their members to linemen and everywhere in-between in the know.
“The restoration effort was assisted by technology Co-Mo members have helped the cooperative invest in throughout the past decade,” said Ken Johnson, CEO and General Manager of Co-Mo. “The leading piece of technology that helped through the storm was the Outage Management System, which allowed the cooperative’s operations personnel to know about outages before a member even called. NISC’s iVUE AppSuite allowed our communications manager keep up with the progress of the restoration efforts and report real-time on the progress via our Facebook pages. This helped us keep our members up to date and fostered positivity, even among those out of service for days.”
“Having NISC’s AppSuite allowed me to provide real-time updates to members and to the media,’ said John Agliata, Communications Manager at Co-Mo. “So when a reporter called and asked how many outages we still had, I could give an exact answer instead of ‘about 2,000.’ Being about to say something as specific as “1,921,” for example, breeds confidence that you’re on top of the situation.”
Through social media, Co-Mo was able to keep their membership informed of restoration efforts and provide a perspective never been seen by those outside the cooperative—how dangerous a lineman’s job can really be in harsh weather conditions. From videos of fireballs to providing a behind the scenes look at how a cooperative restores power. This dedication to keeping Co-Mo’s membership in the loop fostered a sense of Community and reassured their membership that they were doing everything they could to get the power back on.
That dedication to getting the power on and keeping in for Co-Mo Electric’s members spread throughout Missouri and Callaway Electric Cooperative was one of the twenty electric utilities who sent crews to assist.
“One of the aspects that consistently amazes me about working for an electric cooperative is the high level of commitment to assistance among the cooperative family. Winter storm Rocky was the perfect illustration of this kind of collaboration. When help was requested by Co-Mo Electric Cooperative, we sent a crew and trucks along with an iPad,” said Tim Sweeney, Network and System Administrator at Callaway Electric Cooperative, Fulton Mo. “The device enabled our crews to have access to Co-Mo’s system map through NISC’s AppSuite software. Shortly after they arrived at Co-Mo’s headquarters, our operations department loaded AppSuite on our iPad, and our men were off to assist in the field.”
“Really the part of those electric linemen coming in from other areas of the state that weren’t hit with this disaster, they came here because they wanted to help Co-Mo’s members,” said Hart. “And that is what makes the co-op’s different—and that’s what we call the cooperative difference.”