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The Year of Emergency Preparedness

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Yusra Kauppila's picture
Operations Center Manager DataCapable

Yusra Kauppila is a recognized leader in the implementation of geospatial and artificial intelligence technologies. At a young age, she developed a servant’s heart and it was this calling to help...

  • Member since 2022
  • 2 items added with 515 views
  • Jan 26, 2022
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This item is part of the Special Issue - 2022-01 - Power Industry 2022 Trends & Predictions, click here for more

In December of 2015, I experienced first-hand how important it was to be prepared. Winter Storm Goliath hit Texas while I was traveling to visit family over the holidays. Before I knew it, myself, my husband, my six-year-old son were stuck in a very dangerous situation! We found ourselves trapped on the highway overnight. Since that day I’ve been a huge advocate for “self-ownership of emergency preparedness”. I manage a team of global analysts that support utilities across the World. 24/7, 365 days a year, we are a fabric of utility emergency support, providing utilities with the real-time monitoring of threats that impact the grid. This leadership role has given me the insight to make these exciting 2022 predictions!

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A Look Back - Looking forward to 2022 brings with it a necessity to look backward at what emergency responders, operation centers, and utility customers experienced in 2021. A magnitude of vectors have influenced the direction of the utility industry and the role of proactive communications and continual stakeholder education; Covid, social distancing, major weather events, wildfires, and a new customer base of remote workers.  

  • Virtualized Emergency Operations Center: Around the World, utility professionals and emergency response centers have gone fully virtual. In 2021, the industry embraced a decentralized staff. This included new processes and workflows to support staff working from locations beyond the service territory of the utility itself.
  • Embraced New Technologies: The virtualization of staff and the emergency operation center itself, has required teams to embrace new mechanisms to communicate with each other. In 2021, the industry embraced new ways to collect data from crews and used new tools to share information with leadership. 
  • Heightened Sensitivity to Outages and Grid Events: A fully remote customer base has brought with it new sensitivities to the reliability of service and the role pre and post-storm communications play during major events. In 2021 the utility industry embraced new workflows to proactively communicate, display information sooner, and provide customers with real-time updates on planned, unplanned (necessary outages), and emergency events that occurred.

Emergency Response Collaboration and Interoperability

2022 will be the year of Emergency Response Center Collaboration and Interoperability. In 2021 (and in many cases previous years), operation centers made strategic investments in software technologies that enable the real-time sharing of data. In 2022, the Virtualized Emergency Operation Center will embrace these investments to share data between utilities, state operations emergency response facilities, and even federal organizations (such as FEMA). This includes how outage information, network information, facility information, and crew information can be seamlessly shared to empower multiple stakeholders with real-time information. The realization of this prediction will require robust spatial technologies (such as Esri-based services), the availability of fully documented APIs (mechanisms to share data in real-time between vendors, and the real-time situational awareness of things that impact the grid.

Data Stewardship and Utility Outreach: With great data comes great responsibility. In 2022, utilities will have access to more emergency data than at any point in the history of the grid.

  • Embrace Technology: Today, we can easily list off technologies that seemed fanciful not so long ago; artificial intelligence, augmented reality, digital twin, UAVs, satellite imagery, and mobile apps. The new capabilities are empowering field crews to quickly share information from the field. In 2022, the data from these technologies will be embraced by new areas of the business. This will empower utilities with faster information on the status of the grid.
  • Optimize Digital Reach: Beyond embracing new technologies to enable data collection, and information dissemination, emergency management professionals will work collaboratively with utility communication professionals to provide training, updates, and relevant storm and grid information via a variety of new tools. As we look to 2022 and beyond, role of emerging social media platforms (such as TikTok) will play a growing role in how customers engage. This includes the growing usage and value of YouTube and other streaming content sites.
  • Train, Re-Train, Re-Train Again: This includes using every opportunity possible for both internal training and external training of customers and associated stakeholders. What to do before, during, and after a storm and how this aligns with digital outreach tools that provide both a captive audience and

Self-Ownership of Emergency Preparedness: 2022 will hopefully bring with it the revolution in “Self-Ownership of Emergency Preparedness”. An educated customer is an empowered customer. As the utility embraces data stewardship and outreach, customers will begin to embrace this training. Pre-storm checklists., evacuation planning, generator safety, food preparation, where to seek support, etc. will be data points each customer understands before the storm even occurs.

Improving reliability, embracing innovation, and promoting a culture deep-rooted in safety are just some of the fundamental building blocks the grids are built upon. What makes 2022 entirely new, and exciting, is the ability for emergency response professionals to truly realize now-decades old promises that technology would bring. The accumulation of this technology, training and emergency preparedness will bring with it customer awareness, training, and a self-empowered customer to make safety-based decisions well ahead of the actual storm! In 2022 we’re entering a fundamental turning point in the stewardship of data, emergency response collaboration, and what is prepared as a customer truly means. Using data to its fullest potential to drive better outcomes before, during, and after the storm strikes.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 26, 2022
  • Heightened Sensitivity to Outages and Grid Events: A fully remote customer base has brought with it new sensitivities to the reliability of service and the role pre and post-storm communications play during major events. In 2021 the utility industry embraced new workflows to proactively communicate, display information sooner, and provide customers with real-time updates on planned, unplanned (necessary outages), and emergency events that occurred.

This is a great point that I hadn't factored in-- it's a priority that still should have been a priority but I guess utilities have otherwise been able to brush it under the rug more? Has there been data about the previous speed of response during peak demand hours compared with during the day when most homes would not have had someone working/learning from them in the 'before' time? 

Yusra Kauppila's picture
Yusra Kauppila on Jan 28, 2022

I think with the increase in customers working from home came the necessity for timely and continual updates on service disruptions. Having lived in an area that lost power more often than surrounding areas, I wouldn't have been impacted had I not been working from home. I have not seen any data showing whether response times have changed, but I do follow consumer sentiment on social media. What has increased is communication between companies and their consumers and vice versa. The reporting of outages has also seemed to increase, which I attribute to more consumers being at home, where they may have previously been working outside the home. 

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