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Threat Level Red

Integrating weather and GIS data for more accurate threat assessments.

Fortnightly Magazine - August 2014
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Military commanders would love to have confirmed intelligence on when and where their enemy will attack so they can prepare defenses and call up reinforcements to ensure they're fully prepared to stop the attack and minimize casualties. But the when and where only paints a general picture - to best prepare, commanders need information on how strong the attack will be, what kind of weapons the enemy will use and specifics on their tactics.

Utilities preparing for a severe weather event are no different than those military commanders. They need the most reliable, detailed information to ensure enough field teams are available and positioned at the right time and place to respond quickly and efficiently to damage and outages. However, most utilities are only getting a general intelligence update from their solutions.

Advanced weather forecasting services have supported weather response planning for years, giving utilities increasingly accurate information on when and where a storm will hit, as well as storm strength.

Figure 1 - Approaching Storm

While this intelligence is significantly better than getting the weather report from the evening news or other consumer sources that tend to "hype" major weather events, it still leaves a level of uncertainty on the specifics of potential damage to infrastructure. Storm response, particularly to major violent storms, can involve calling in hundreds or even thousands of additional field workers and staging millions of dollars of repair equipment and materials. Every overestimation of the response needed represents dollars lost for the business; every underestimation represents delays in response and service restoration for customers.

Fortunately, in the constant drive to improve storm preparedness intelligence, weather and GIS are being combined in new ways to provide better storm threat assessments - helping utilities create increasingly effective battle plans to defend against approaching storms.

Forecasting + GIS: Better together

A GIS solution is the cornerstone of many modern-day utilities: it provides a central repository for a utility's asset and network data, along with immediate updates on statuses and conditions. With just a few keystrokes, asset information can be updated, and network and infrastructure changes can be modeled and designed. In short, GIS is a comprehensive, real-time, enterprise geospatial database of all network assets - a single version of the truth.

The combination of a GIS's enterprise-wide asset and network data, plus access to real-time weather information provides one of the most powerful tools for responding to severe weather threats by helping utilities prepare for outages and reduce restoration times. With it, utilities can determine which parts of their service area are in the path of a storm and prepare crews to respond to potential

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