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GIS as a Safety Tool

Ross Boozer's picture
Senior Business Systems Analyst PSEG

I have experience in ADMS, GIS, and OMS. I like to talk about the electric industry, technology, science, and putting those together to solve problems.

  • Member since 2020
  • 7 items added with 853 views
  • Jul 28, 2021

GIS is a safety tool. That's right, your geographic information system, your digital map, maybe even your field companion on your phone, is a tool that you can use for safety.

It's probably not often thought of as a safety tool. We think of PPE, hardhats, eye protection, and maybe a pre-job meeting as our core safety tools. But, along with our ever increasing toolbox of digital safety aids, GIS is right there. It's ready to help you protect yourself or others from being in the wrong place where things could be dangerous.

So how do we use GIS to help us be safe? I think an easy example is our basic underground residential loop. We have two ways in to the loop, most likely a fused connection at a pole going to underground cable, and a normally open fuse, switch, elbow, transformer, or whatever you might have sitting in that green box in your neighbors yard. Two ways in, an open somewhere, and a bunch of happy customers with safe reliable service.

If we have a problem on that part of our network, an outage, a flicker from a bad connection, or even low voltage, we can send somebody to troubleshoot the problem. If they find a blown fuse or a loose connection on the secondaries in a transformer, we can isolate the transformer by closing the normally open equipment, open where we need to in order to isolate the problem, and fix it. When we go to the normal open, it better be open. This is where GIS starts to help us out. We can't see where the underground cable goes. We rely on "the map" to be right. When it's not right, we can't go to work until we figure out what doesn't line up. Finding that discrepancy? Also GIS.

Starting from that one true source of information gives us a basic understanding of what we expect to find. Verifying that before we go to work is the next step. But, it starts from our "normal" view of the world: "The Map." We don't need to guess what is open and what is closed. We don't need to open every transformer to see if something is open. We can go to the map. Before we even touch a piece of energized equipment, we know what it's connected to and what connects to it. That knowledge keeps us out of harms way. It prevents us from being in the wrong place. And, it should be in your box of tools, next to your hardhat, every time you go out in the field. Be safe out there!

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 28, 2021

This is a great point, Ross. And I know with many field workers there's a hesitance to give up on their paper maps they've long used, but framing it as for their safety might be a very useful nudge to get utility workers on board

Ross Boozer's picture
Ross Boozer on Aug 4, 2021

I've been trying to get rid of paper for a long time. I guess this is part of that as well. I didn't even think about it that way. Thanks Matt!

Linda Stevens's picture
Linda Stevens on Jul 30, 2021

Great points! GIS is a key component of safety for a utility. We often forget that. Plus once you integrate with IoT it is even smarter. 


Ross Boozer's picture
Ross Boozer on Aug 4, 2021

Thanks Linda. I think we do often forget that and when I realized that I forgot it myself, I thought, somebody else could read this and be reminded as well.

Of course that IoT piece is a big deal and growing. Smarter equipment, better decisions. I always wanted small/cheap weather stations at the substations.

Ross Boozer's picture
Thank Ross for the Post!
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