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Apps Help Utilities Speed Up Power Restoration

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Karen Marcus's picture
Freelance Researcher and Writer Final Draft Communications, LLC

In addition to serving as an Energy Central Community Manager, Karen Marcus has nearly 25 years of experience as a content developer within the energy and technology industries. She has worked...

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Like companies in other industries, utilities are finding ways to make the most of current technology. Drones, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, analytics, augmented reality (AR), and the Internet of Things (IoT) all hold promise for utilities in providing better, safer, and more efficient service.

Another technology trend is a wide array of apps designed specifically for emergency power restoration. They enable first responders and utility crews, managers, and office personnel to coordinate efforts for faster, safer responses. Here are a few examples.

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First Responder Reporting

Often the first to arrive at emergency sites, police and fire personnel have a unique opportunity to assess damage to electrical grid equipment immediately and report it to the appropriate utility. First responder reporting apps provide a tool for emergency workers to do exactly that. Having this information this early in the process allows the utility to make key decisions about how to respond, and make swift service restoration more likely. Such apps include features that allow detailed reporting — including photos — on the exact situation on the scene, and the precise locations requiring attention.

Damage Assessment

Following broad-brush initial assessments from first responders, utility personnel can use a damage assessment app to provide more granular information about the nature of grid equipment damage, as well as the number of affected wires, poles, etc. The collection of such information from various crew members can be used to develop a targeted response plan and to deploy the right combination of people and materials. In-app maps enable users to show exact locations where attention is needed. Understanding the scope of damage helps not only repair crews and managers, but also utility leaders, who need to communicate with customers and the public about estimated repair times.

Repair Assistance

Once in the field, repair crews can reference repair guides, creating an instantaneous knowledge base during restoration operations. For example, the app Lineman Guide includes detailed instructions, including detailed images, for knots and rope capacities, rigging, transformers, and other useful information. Users can get a quick lesson for how to perform a wide variety of tasks when other professionals might not be available to assist. 

Crew Management

During an emergency, with so many details to manage, it becomes difficult for crew managers to verify crew member locations. A crew management app can help by tracking employee and contract crew members (also using the app) as they make their way to and perform work at a designated site. Managers can then spend their time attending to more high-level concerns. According to James Menton, writing for Electric Light & Power, “Such a holistic view of work force resources leads to better optimization of management and dispatching.”

Response crews may also use more general business communication apps or texting to stay in touch and exchange critical information.

As apps designed for power restoration evolve, they will likely include the ability to work with other technology to become even more useful. For example, IoT sensors on electrical equipment could send signals to a nearby mobile device, eliminating the need for the person using the device to physically inspect the equipment. Both present and future functionality represent an improvement over past methods, and create conditions for faster, safer emergency power restoration.

Is your utility using apps for emergency power restoration? If so, how have they helped improve your response time? Please share in the comments.


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Alan King's picture
Alan King on Oct 15, 2019

A very good post Karen, thanks for sharing.

In working with one of our customers a couple of years back, we identitifed an opportunity before the First Responder stage of your post. Without getting too technical (one of my specialities!), we built a secure mobile application that provided a read only view of trouble calls straight to an authorised group of users.

The authorised group of users spanned Executives and Field Leaders. The Executives received push notifications of outages and were kept informed of planned and unplanned outages. Also historic load and current weather conditions amongst other information was presented. Benefits included accurate information for media reporting and no longer needing to take a laptop everywhere. The Field Leaders were able to dispatch crews in advance of the work being phoned through (electronic dispatch wasn't yet implemented for them), which reduced down time for the customer.

We've also been involved heavily in automated fault issue to mobile over the last 10 years. Significant benefits here including reduced minutes off supply, reduction in travel time plus subsequent benefits on overtime and vehicle running costs/maintenance, reduction in calls both inbound and outbound, increased fault closeout in high volume days as linesman are not waiting in the phone queue to close work out, reduction in paper, printing etc plus several others.

Karen Marcus's picture
Karen Marcus on Oct 24, 2019

Excellent, Alan. Thanks for educating readers about your real-life contribution to this beneficial technology. 

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