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Co-op Turns to Texting as Outage Response Tool

image credit: Credit: Wikipedia

A South Carolina public power utility is using text messages as an outage notification tool in an effort to save time and money when deploying crews.

Rock Hill Utilities uses texting to send outage notifications to affected customers. Customers also can send texts to the utility to report outages. The system is directly connected to the utility’s outage management system, helping crews pinpoint the location and extent of an outage, and possibly help isolate the cause and provide data for predictive analysis.

Texting has cut down on the calls that utility staff typically handle while also providing quicker, more accurate communications with customers, Mike Jolly, director of utilities for Rock Hill Utilities, was quoted as saying. Now, when the utility declares an outage, a message is sent automatically to customers.

About 95% of customers have chosen to participate in the text service.

Rock Hill Utilities runs a combined utility system that provides electric, water and sewer services to about 95,000 people in the city and surrounding area. Texting also is being used to confirm dates and locations of service calls.

In general, less than 2% of text messages are spam, meaning that customers are less likely to ignore them. In part, that is because of protections built into the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which restricts the way businesses can use text messages.

In the past, customers would call in outages, and a dispatcher would collect the information and declare an outage. The lag time offered room for discrepancies to be cleared up. With texting utilities have to follow outages more closely and update restoration times more accurately. Any accidental outage declaration is likely to be quickly corrected by customer feedback.

David Wagman's picture

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