Superstorm Sandy arrived in Atlantic City, N.J. on October 2012 with a fury. Eighty miles per hour winds mowed down utility poles like they were matchsticks. Along with the winds came over 11-inches of rain and the loss of electricity to 2.4 million households and businesses. The electric utilities were scrambling to get their customers back online as fast as they could.
Afterward, the utilities would say the storm was the most powerful in the area’s history. Just one utility repaired or restored 2,400 utility poles and worked on 48,000 trees while completing 2.1 million electric service restorations—besting the record of any utility in the country.
When communities fall in the crosshairs of devastating storms, it’s usually the employees of the nation’s electric utilities who are in the first wave of “first responders” that restore essential services and pick up the broken pieces of your neighborhood’s infrastructure.
The utility’s disaster team works with numerous external partners to help them restore services. Moreover, energy logistics partners and 3PLs are some of the first resources tapped because speed is critical when outages can cost utilities $1 million per day and more.
For instance, when Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey, one utility company was soon on the phone with our team here in Minneapolis. Some energy logistics companies such as 3PLs have “go teams” ready to help out at a moment’s notice.
In fact, the damage in New Jersey was so widespread LPS sent a project lead to the state to coordinate the expedited movements of thousands of replacement parts. The company needed new utility poles and sections, transformers, trenching materials, turbine rotors, generators, and much more.
All attention is focused on where the replacement parts are in the supply chain and when will they arrive. And because replacement parts come from scattered manufacturers and warehouses in North America, utilities may have to wait for a group of parts to come before certain repairs are made.
Planning is Indispensable
President Dwight Eisenhower said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” One could say the same about how utility companies prepare for storms. Storms are as unpredictable as battles. Nevertheless, planning can be a powerful tool.
For example, a utility company can communicate to logistics partners its complete list of replacement parts, points of origin, and arrive by dates. When LPS works with an electric utility, we take responsibility for the supply chain during the time the company’s focusing on restoring services. Sometimes that means having at least one person on location to assist the utility with receiving and coordinating freight. Utility customers should also have access to delivery status around the clock through live geo-tracking, scheduled tracking reports, and the 3PL’s specialists.
With the winter months ahead, utility companies already have emergency and power outage plans in place. Indeed, severe snow storms in the Midwest and nor’easters on the East coast can wreck as much havoc as hurricanes. Winter storms bring ice and snow, which topple utility poles and power lines. Snow covered roads and freezing weather add to the challenges of rebuilding infrastructure with moving replacement parts.
In other regions of the country, electric utilities must deal with wildfires, mudslides and heavy rains, which can inflict just as much damage to infrastructure as hurricanes and nor’easters.
But when the nation’s utility companies partner with a 3PL experienced in supporting power outages, the advanced planning it takes to get replacement parts ordered, shipped and delivered, is indispensable. With $1 million a day at stake, there’s no time to waste.
Talk to our energy logistics specialists now to start your planning.