Ready for Storm Season

PSNH Mobile on iPhone

The start of fall is a season of heightened awareness for PSNH employees involved in storm restoration. Slightly more than a year after Irene knocked out power to 125,000 customers, and coming up on the anniversary of the bizarre Snowtober when up to 237,000 customers were without power, PSNH departments believe they are more prepared than ever for whatever the elements throw at New Hampshire in the coming months.

The fall foliage is a bittersweet reminder that one of the best parts about New Hampshire is also one of its biggest troublemakers. While New Hampshire recently overtook Maine as the most forested state in the nation, the downside is that during a severe storm of high winds or heavy snow, more than 90 percent of the outages on PSNH electrical systems are caused by trees and tree limbs.

Looking back on the overwhelming tree-related outages that resulted during Irene and Snowtober, vegetation management supervisor Bob Allen (pictured) observes, “We learned that many of our lines go through a forest with a few houses in it instead of a street with a few trees on it.” He adds that customers’ “power quality expectations have definitely changed” over the years. But Allen says his team has a strategy to address problems encountered during Irene, Snowtober, and other recent restoration efforts.

“When severe weather is called for, we often have pre-staged tree crews in those area work centers (AWC) where we anticipate the greatest impact,” says Allen. “I believe this offers greater flexibility in responding to outages.”

Advance preparation enhancements have also been on the front burner for Don Nourse, supervisor of PSNH’s operations planning and system preparedness. “We have made great strides in continuing to improve our emergency restoration organization—we have implemented and completed outage management system training, made an online version available to employees, and made improvements in our crew movement forms,” says Nourse. “We also will be placing into service two Emergency Operations Satellite trailers, fully equipped, to make the opening of a satellite AWC more efficient.”

Call Center manager Jessica Fitzgerald says customer service employees will have improved communications tools at their disposal during an outage: “We have the flexibility to share pre-recorded messages when a customer initially calls in, and this has recently been enhanced to allow new detail to be shared. That way, new information can be communicated immediately, and our customers may no longer need to wait to hear the latest update from a representative.”

During last year’s major outages, some Call Center employees were “placed in our AWCs to help with the information-sharing process,” explains Fitzgerald. “We gained heightened understanding of local restoration plans and ETRs, which improved the messages relayed to our customers. “

The increased use of social media and the addition of a mobile version of psnh.com, Fitzgerald adds, have also proven positive, providing customers the alternative to report an outage through their smart phones. “We are servicing our customers in a whole new way – no customer call is needed.”

For complete information on preparing for and reporting a power outage, visit psnh.com.