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LPEA implements new Outage Management System

In response to the need for increased communications with member/customers during electrical outages, and to facilitate repair of damaged equipment within its service territory, La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) has implemented a new Outage Management System (OMS).

Following several months of testing and training, the new OMS is in place in preparation for the winter storm season.

The system combines a variety of technology tools to, essentially, manage an outage in a most efficient and effective manner. Highly sophisticated software enables rapid identification of member/customers’ service addresses and diagnosis of the outage.

“The system relies on accurate data, so we need our member/customers to work with us today so they can benefit during a future outage,” said Mindy Potter, LPEA engineering IT specialist and the project manager for the OMS. “First, we need you to make sure we have your current phone numbers. The system can hold up to three numbers, including cell phone numbers. When you call LPEA about an outage, if we have your phone numbers, the OMS can identify then verify your service address and provide you with automatic information about an on-going outage.”

Potter also noted that if an outage does occur, all affected member/customers should call LPEA’s main line (247-5786) and report it. The more data fed into the OMS, the more accurate the outage diagnosis. Also, the system keeps track of the calls, making call-backs to member/customers possible to verify power restoration or provide additional information, should the outage prove to be an extended one.

Once the member/customer’s service address is verified, the OMS determines if that address is part of a current outage already reported. If yes, the OMS will automatically relay any status information to the caller, such as, “We are already aware of an outage in your area;” “A crew has been dispatched;” or “A crew is on-site fixing the problem.”

“In some cases, when the damage is extensive and the crews will need prolonged time to affect repairs, the dispatcher will add a custom message,” explained Potter. “Basically, the OMS will give the customer up-to-date information as the dispatcher works the outage.”

While Potter acknowledges that many times member/customers would prefer to speak directly with a “live” person, during a major outage the dispatcher(s) on duty simply cannot handle the volume of calls personally. LPEA must rely on the automated outage reporting system. LPEA’s Dispatch Center is staffed around the clock, but typically with only one person unless a major incident is in progress.

When a new outage occurs and a member/customer calls LPEA, the OMS receives the call and the system provides the dispatcher on duty with a calculated estimation of the equipment damaged or the cause of the outage. The dispatcher works from a “map” of the service area in question, which highlights the specific households out of power and the electrical systems in the area.

“At some point, everyone may experience a power outage, and our goal with implementing the OMS is to make dissemination of information as efficient as possible,” said Potter. “We want to provide better communication between LPEA and our customers, giving consistent outage status information. Better communication, efficiency, reliability and expedient restoration of power are all a result of the OMS.? And in turn, all of these things benefit our member customers.”

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