Anatomy of a power outage

When the lights go out, so do WH line crews. But what happens to make that happen?

Posted by Lauren Dublin on September 25, 2022

When the lights go out, so do WH line crews. But what happens to make that happen?

WH crews are sent to outages by our distribution support specialists. Our distribution support specialists spend regular business hours communicating with crews out in the field, but are on call 24/7/365 to ensure outages are restored as quickly as safely possible.

There are three different ways an outage report makes its way to dispatch-

  1. A member calling the outage in through the 24-hour outage hotline at (763) 477-3100,
  2. A member reporting it online,
  3. A smart meter reporting it directly to WH’s Outage Management System (OMS) within minutes of losing power.

If your power goes out, you can check WH's outage map to see if your outage has reported into the system. If your outage shows up, dispatch is aware of it. You may also receive a text or an email alerting you to the outage.

Four large tv screens on a blue wall
Dispatchers have several large monitors that display approaching weather systems, system statuses, and other information.

When an outage pops into the OMS, dispatch can see if only one outage has been reported, or if there are multiple on the same line. Next, they’ll look for a service order to see if the outage was planned. These service orders are usually from WH crews doing repair work, or the member who notified WH ahead of time that their electric would be shut off for an electrician. If there’s no service order, and only one outage reporting, dispatchers call the member to confirm the outage before sending a crew. If multiple outages have reported from the same area, dispatchers skip this step and crews are sent right away.

A picture of a blue and white map on a computer screen.
The OMS program reports outages to dispatchers, who send line crews to restore power.

During business hours, WH has two “running crews,” who are doing maintenance projects but would be able to easily change plans and head to an outage to restore members’ power. Most of the time, they’ll already have everything they need to repair an outage right away.

If it’s after hours, the on-call crew is sent to the outage. When on call, line crews take a truck home, so they don’t need to come to the office first to get their gear. This gets power restored faster!

Once the crew arrives on scene, they start at the reporting device (such as the transformer), and work their way down the line to locate the outage’s cause and make sure there are no other obstructions on the line before they can safely restore the power.

A yellow bucket truck near power lines.
Crews work on repairing lines after an outage caused by a storm.

A common misconception is that the larger the outage, the longer it will take to restore, but fixing one large outage is often faster than many small outages!  Multiple smaller outages can each have their own different cause, resulting in more investigation time for the crews assigned to the outages.

“We do what we need to [in order] to get the largest number of members back on as safely and quickly as possible.” said WH distribution support specialist Krista.

Lauren Dublin

Lauren Dublin

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