Pepco Shows Off Improvements at Storm Drill

Pepco conducted a daylong drill Wednesday to test the utility company’s readiness for a significant storm. The annual exercise is designed to ensure employees are prepared for power outages caused by major storms.

Pepco is introducing several new procedures and pieces of technology with the summer storm season here. In its control room in Bethesda, Md., the staff is charged with monitoring power operations and controlling the electricity flow for Pepco’s D.C. and Maryland service area.

“Whenever there's a major event, every employee has a second job,” Pepco President Thomas Graham said. “And that second job may be damage assessment. That second job may be answering telephones. But it's all hands on deck.”

Pepco also is moving managers closer to the control room. Wednesday’s drill moved all those people in charge of logistics to a room above the control room.  Across the hall, a communication center will handle information going out to the public through the call center, website and social media.

By months end Pepco will roll out smartphone applications for customers to use in a storm. They should help eliminate a frustrating wait on the phone.

“You can get the same information through the website or the smartphone app that you'll be able to get through the technology on the phone system or in talking to a human being on the phone system,” Pepco Vice President of Business Transformation Karen Leftkowitz said.

The company also is rolling out smart meters.

"[It enhances] our instantaneous ability to make a determination on whether a customer is out of service without them calling in,” Graham said. “Those meters will be deployed in D.C. this year … in Maryland by end of 2012."

We also saw a simulation of an automated restoration system being tested now. It would detect and isolate problems that cut power then reroute electricity to put some customers right back on.

While speeding up damage assessment and restoring power remain top priorities, customers will see better communication this summer as well, Pepco said.

"We've got the first level of damage assessment done and within six hours we will be publishing an ERT that said this is when we expect the last customer to be restored," Leftkowitz said.

Pepco plans to only revise that estimated restoration time twice. The last time would be when the crew on your street projects when it will finish its work.

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