Severe storms can throw a wrench in a utility company’s plans. The effects of a serious storm can be disastrous and urgent. Damaged or fallen utility poles may lead to power outages that affect entire communities.
Getting electricity up and running again as soon as possible is a key part of storm response for utility companies.
Clouds in the cumulus stage are often paired with blue skies, but weather can change quickly as the cloud continues to grow. Light rain may be nothing to worry about, but as warm moist air moves up, clouds form mature storms that can make a big splash.
You may not always be able to predict the stage when storm clouds will develop, so it’s vital to have the right storm response in place.
Part of that process is staging.
Let’s take a closer look at how utility companies should prepare for a storm.
Utility Staging Areas
Staging areas are incredibly important for utility storm response. The staging area is the place where the restoration team will stay. It houses their equipment and stores necessary materials.
The vast majority of utility companies already realize the benefits of a staging area. Around 77% of companies set up staging areas.
Whether you already have a plan in place for storm staging or not, there are a few helpful tips to improve your system.
Plan the Spacing
One of the biggest challenges with staging areas is the spacing. It’s easy to underestimate the space needed, which can lead to congestion and inefficiency. Planning out the space ahead of time can help with this.
Consider all of the factors of staging. You don’t only need room for lodging, you also need meeting spaces, vehicle parking, and ample room to move around.
Identify an ideal staging space that can accommodate everything that happens during staging. Besides just choosing a large enough space, plan out how the different staging parts will fit.
Draft an overall design/ layout for the space. Where will the parking area be? Where is the driveway to the parking lot? How is the lodging laid out? What are the typical routes someone would need to walk? Where will equipment go?
Simple sketches can get you started, but to be sure that everything runs smoothly you should create true-to-size renderings. Get measurements of the various areas and plan them to scale. This will give you the best idea of how the space looks and operates. Planning the space ahead of time is the most efficient solution.
Coordinate Safety and Security
Utility job sites are often even more hazardous after a major storm. There may be large debris, open wires, fallen poles, and more hazards. Working with electricity always requires diligent safety, but in a storm response setting it’s even more important.
Considering the risks, it’s vital to plan safety measures and medical treatment for staging. Create safety protocol to mitigate risks. Some ideas of things to cover in your safety training include:
Protective equipment requirements
Basics for responding to medical concerns
While you may train your team on these things upon hiring, keeping a dedicated guide for staging safety can help refresh people when a big storm hits.
Meals and Lodging
Getting utility stations up and running again after a natural disaster is an around-the-clock job. It’s an urgent matter that often requires all hands on deck.
Meals and lodging are therefore part of the staging process. Providing lodging and meals at the staging facility reduces commute times and ensures a quicker resolution.
Of course, it’s also another logistical component to consider. Some factors of food and lodging to keep in mind include:
Setup and takedown of any temporary lodging.
How many workers you can accommodate.
Catering and/or food preparation.
Responding to storm damage can understandably be stressful for utility managers and their teams. With so many moving parts, keeping logistics flowing smoothly at your staging location is a major challenge.
Of course, lapses in communication can be extremely detrimental. They can lead to longer repair times, wasted resources, additional stress, and more. Maintaining excellent communication is vital, but difficult.
Part of staging includes setting your team up for success. You want to facilitate teamwork and strong communication. Waiting until the storm is fully formed won’t help. Instead, planning ahead and educating your team is vital.
Some tips to help include:
Provide training on storm response to your team.
Create guides for staging and storm response so your team has access.
Post reminders, maps, directions, etc throughout the staging area.
Hold a team meeting before beginning a storm response to review important information.
Set up a protocol for communication and decision-making, so your team knows who to contact and how to reach them throughout the process.
Hire a Self-Unloading Storm Response Team
A critical part of staging is knowing what to outsource and to whom. Again, you want to avoid making a last-minute decision. Instead, you need a storm response solution that you can count on already in place.
Blackwood Resources is here to help. We help utility teams get power back quicker than ever after a storm.
How can we do this?
With our specialty self-unloading trucks and highly-trained operators. We stage several strikes throughout the area to help with clean-up, staging, and new pole delivery.
Self-loading and unloading trucks are specially designed to deal with overlength hauls. You won’t have to worry about hiring additional help or renting huge machinery. Our trucks can pick up your equipment and poles on their own, facilitating quick loading and unloading.
Since 2017, we’ve been helping utility companies with all of their hauling needs, including storm response. We are the team you need in your corner, and we’re here to help with disaster recovery.
Find out more about our storm response services and how we can help your utility company today. Contact us to get started.