If an automobile collides with a power pole and knocks it down at midnight or lighting takes out a transformer over a holiday weekend, Grant Public Utility District can reach a small army of electric linemen and others in seconds to begin the process of restoration. Since May, Grant PUD, which serves 46,000 customers across Grant County, Wash., has launched more than 900 automated, outbound calls to assemble crews via the Saas-based ARCOS® Callout and Scheduling Suite.
Before May 2015, Grant PUD contacted crews via a manual process. When a power outage occurred after normal working hours, Grant PUD’s dispatchers would manually dial a list of workers to find available personnel to begin restoration work.
“Dialing each worker by hand for a callout could take as long as an hour,” says Chris Heimbigner, line superintendent for Grant PUD. “Dispatchers had to manually roll – or move people from the top to the bottom of a list – for each callout. With ARCOS, we took the manual process out of callouts.”
According to Heimbigner, Grant PUD learned about the ARCOS solution from Spokane, Wash.-based Avista Utilities, which uses the suite for assembling, managing and tracking electric and gas crews. The ARCOS solution automates the assembly of crews for emergency repair, filling a shift or special projects. And it strictly mirrors the work agreements in place between Grant PUD and IBEW Local 77 for callout and overtime rules.
“I do believe ARCOS has decreased outage duration and our response time,” adds Heimbigner. “We’re a huge county. And the system is new, and we’ve had to make adjustments moving from a manual process to an automated one, but we’ve had zero issues.”
After manual callouts, Heimbigner says he was regularly questioned about why one crew member was called before another or skipped over entirely. Digging into the reasons why manual calls were made in a particular order could take away hours each week from managing contracts and daily operations. With the automated system, Heimbigner now spends that previously lost time solving customer issues, ensuring safety and supporting engineering work. Heimbigner also sees the ARCOS solution’s reporting features helping Grant PUD with crew management. Being able to automatically review and confirm the outcome of each event and callout will give Grant PUD a view of where trouble areas are, who’s responding and how frequently crews respond. The ARCOS solution covers line workers; station operators; electricians; fiber technicians and fiber installers; customer service representatives; and transportation, facility and warehouse workers.
“The automated callout system removes the human element of calling people and saves hours of a dispatcher’s time,” says Grant PUD ARCOS Administrator Taffy Courteau. “The maintenance of our rosters and the sanctity of the order of calls is preserved.”