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Storm of the Decade

Process changes prepare ComEd to recover quickly from disastrous storm and flood.

Fortnightly Magazine - April 2008

But as the October 2006 storm demonstrated, it’s not just having the manpower on property, or how well that manpower is deployed that makes the difference in restoring power quickly.

In its use of field command centers and staging sites, ComEd follows the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s model. In addition to the central command center and regional storm offices, the use of field locations provide more structure and organization in the field, with a vice president staffing each field command center to speed decision making.

A key learning from the October storm was the need to expand the number of field sites during large events. Consequently, in 2007 ComEd was prepared to establish two incident command centers in the hardest hit areas instead of the one center used in October 2006, and the company increased staging sites from two to five. The decision to do so resided with the emergency response directors, which for this storm included ComEd vice presidents such as Tim McGuire, Mike McMahan and Tyler Anthony.

In terms of foreign crews, going from two to five staging sites allowed ComEd to hand out work packages closer to the location of crews’ assignments. This reduced drive times for outside crews and increased their time spent patrolling lines, installing poles and wires, and restoring customers.

Additionally, ComEd increased foreign-crew productivity by improving assembly of work pouches, including work assignments, system maps, driving directions and supplies. This began with deploying double teams early on to do more damage assessment in the field and assist with work-package assembly. The supply department also set up multiple remote warehouses to expedite the delivery of materials to job sites. When foreign crews reported for their first shifts, not only had the company identified more work for them to do, but they spent little time waiting for work packages and supplies.

Carl Segneri, ComEd vice president of quality assurance, and Kevin Brookins, vice president of new business/work management, oversaw all foreign crews. They kept a separate “foreign crew war room” open for the duration of the restoration. The war room consolidated all issues related to the foreign crews, such as arranging and deploying truck rentals, securing hotel rooms, and eliminating the duplication of work assignments.

When all restorations were complete in Chicago’s south suburbs surrounding the Village of Frankfort, instead of receiving work packages, the next shift of foreign crews received full instructions and maps to drive 50 miles north to Northbrook. This allowed the utility to relocate 36 crews and an entire reporting center without missing a beat.

Feeder Lockouts

ComEd also implemented a new approach for attacking feeder lockouts. Called “feeder SPOC,” the tactic designates a single point of contact (SPOC) in the field as sole authority for managing all restoration work along the main stem of a feeder. Although it had yet to be finalized as a formal ComEd procedure when the storm hit, quick dissemination and implementation of the approach played a major role in the rapid restoration of many lockouts.

Normally, all restoration work along a distribution line is controlled and coordinated