The Resiliency Sports Analogy

Posted to Esri in the Digital Utility Group
image credit: Photo 258319288 © Volodymyr Melnyk |
Bill Meehan's picture
Director, Utility Solutions Esri

William (Bill) Meehan is the Director of Utility Solutions for Esri. He is responsible for business development and marketing Esri’s geospatial technology to global electric and gas utilities.A...

  • Member since 2002
  • 205 items added with 245,809 views
  • Dec 6, 2022

When a sports team trains for the season, they do three things: The first is study the competition. Gather as much data as possible. Study their patterns of attack, movements, and strategy. Next, identify their own team’s weaknesses. Then, work on fixing as many vulnerabilities as possible. Shore up areas of a possible attack. Finally, in preparation for the game, match our strengths to their vulnerabilities. Minimize the competition’s strengths and prop up weaknesses. In effect, the team builds resiliency customized to a particular foe.

That’s how GIS works for resilience. First, gather as much data about the competition as possible. What’s the competition? Wildfires, earthquakes, snow and ice storms, tornadoes, and hurricanes – even things like cyber and physical attacks. These are things beyond the utility’s control. Each one of these events has location as a primary factor.

Next, the utilities must gather as much information as possible about where their vulnerabilities lie. Figure out what consequences of a failure might cause. This is where Esri’s new ArcGIS Utility Network shines. It is the utility’s secret weapon.

Finally, GIS helps utilities prepare for the game, the event. First, they study where a hurricane, a tornado, an ice storm, or whatever could hit. Then, GIS overlays those possible impact areas with areas of network weakness to better understand what might happen. Finally, they implement in advance an approach to ensure they get the most up-to-date asset data and real-time data feeds to make their decisions crisp and science-based. This is the geographic approach. This is also how great sports teams and utilities operate.

Location Matters.

Utilities use GIS to determine where to apply hardening for the most resiliency.

Esri’s founder and president, Jack Dangermond, always mentions that understanding precedes action. He likes to use the term geographic approach. It helps us better understand our environment and manage our problems, projects, and goals. The geographic approach helps us gain a full understanding so that action is optimized and science-based. Since we have so much to accomplish, we must have a solid process.

Here is the shorthand version of the geographic approach:

  • Get the data
  • Visualize and map
  • Analyze
  • Predict and understand

That leads us to well-informed decision-making and action. GIS helps us to prepare strategically, respond rapidly, and recover methodically.

Natural disasters are getting worse and more frequent. Over the last ten years, we have been approaching a trillion dollars of damage to the energy infrastructure due to natural events. And things are not getting better.

Do What Great Sports Teams Do

This is how GIS can help utilities with their roadmap to resiliency.

  • Identify external factors – the competition
  • Model the network vulnerability and potential consequences of failure – the team’s weaknesses
  • Then craft a mitigation plan for a variety of scenarios – the game plan of attack

We need to know precisely where the network is most vulnerable before we even face the competition, which in this case, are all the external things that can cause devastation to the utility assets. Likewise, the utility needs to understand what consequences will likely occur if a portion of the network is damaged. In that way, the utility can prioritize those areas whose failures will impact the network and customers the most.

With that information, utilities can create a great resilience plan. So, when faced with adversaries, like an approaching hurricane, they will be ready. They will have the real-time feeds active, and GIS analytics in place to beat the competition.

Three Takeaways

1) Consume as much data as possible from as many sources. Then, of course, use GIS to align those - demographic, topography, equity, storm history, the potential for terrorist attacks – organize everything by location. Then, using the sports analogy – understand and study your competition.

2) Use location intelligence from the GIS to get a full picture of your weaknesses.

3) As the sports teams do, work on your weaknesses while figuring out where the competition will attack.

Things aren’t getting any easier. No, the competition is getting tougher. But, of course, the competition is a meaner and leaner Mother Nature.

Learn how GIS can help utilities plan for resiliency here.

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Rogers Herndon's picture
Rogers Herndon on Dec 14, 2022

Bill, I like this analogy a lot.  It is more than analogy, it is a good framework to build a program around.  


Paul Korzeniowski's picture
Paul Korzeniowski on Dec 26, 2022

Good points. Many times, technology companies explain their products in technology terms, which most folks do not understand. The analogies used here help them get a better picture of what is occurring and how some solutions may address industry problems, like the need for better grid resiliency. 

Bill Meehan's picture
Bill Meehan on Jan 7, 2023

Thanks, Paul, for your comments.

Bill Meehan's picture
Thank Bill for the Post!
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