When a weather event such as the "Winds-day" storms sweep across the area and knock out power by the thousands, exactly what goes into the process FirstEnergy, like other electric utilities, use to restore service?
FirstEnergy spokesman Mark Durbin says it starts with the obvious "9-1-1 calls" with immediate safety concerns posed by live wires falling from utility poles. A complicating factor is crews don't always know before they are dispatched whether the downed lines are for electricity, cable television, telephone or fiber optic use but either way restoring service starts with cleaning up downed lines. Then the utility works with local agencies such as police and fire to safely reopen streets which may have been closed due to downed lines.
Getting service restored to critical organizations comes next: that list includes hospitals, nursing homes and critical care facilities along with police, fire and emergency responders. Then the condition of the electric grid is analyzed to determine where the quickest work can more efficiently restored to the greatest number of customers. Durbin says residential customers with health devices can also call the utility and be placed on a database list, although those customers are best advised to have some form of power backup such as a generator to make sure critical service is uninterrupted.
Then the utility focuses on service impacting smaller numbers of outages, such as the one or two houses immediately impacted by falling trees. And it's the trees that pose the biggest issue on the restoration landscape; Durbin notes that while much of the charm and beauty of northeast Ohio is found in the woodlands we all enjoy, those same tree-shrouded walkways and streets are a liability not only when lines are taken down by fallen limbs but also in allowing for quicker response by utility crews needing to move equipment in and out of storm-ravaged areas to attack the outage.