FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Mon Power officials said a communications upgrade will shorten repair times and give customers better estimates on when power outages will be rectified.

“We’re unrolling it across the state,” Mon Power spokesman Todd Meyers said Wednesday. “It takes a while to train people how to use it, but it will be throughout our whole area in West Virginia by summer this year.”

The  $2.3 million dollar initiative puts a heavy-duty laptop in every Mon Power service vehicle. The computer will provide the lineman with daily work orders, in contrast to the old system that had workers picking up paper orders from a rack in a service center. This sends the order straight from the dispatcher to the truck in the field.

“They can get turn-by-turn directions to where the job is. They can get special comments by the customer about the job,” said Meyers. “But most of all what it does make everything more efficient.”

Now in the case of catastrophic failures like Hurricane Sandy or the derecho, dispatchers will have real-time information on the location of all power crews and the work they are doing. Under the new system, they’ll know the location of the nearest crew in the event of an outage.

Meyers adds in time of extreme disaster, when linemen from other divisions of First Energy come into West Virginia to assist, they’ll be equipped with the same system. The turn-by-turn directions will be invaluable to those out of area employees to get to the problem spot more quickly.

The state Public Service Commission began a general investigation of Mon Power last year following complaints about meter reading and billing following the derecho and Sandy disasters.

“We’ll know whose onsite doing what work and we’ll know when they clear that outage,” said Meyers. “That will help us, especially in a big storm, get times of restoration. Everybody always wants to know when their lights are coming back on.”

The computers are already in the Morgantown, Parkersburg, Fairmont and the Clarksburg areas. The company will roll out the system company-wide in the coming weeks.

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  • Skip

    No RF meter on my house.

    • Ron

      Just because you don't have one doesn't mean they don't use them.

  • Independent View

    Guess how this great leap of technology will be paid for? Bingo, your power bill.

  • Nick Nichols

    What a joke! Improve response time .... you're kidding! They have down-sized their work force to bare bones. One work crew of 3 men and two service men, down from 25 linemen when I first worked for Mon Power. This past Sunday Rt.19 here in Harrison County was shut down due to a broken pole and several cross-arms broken. They had to bring workers from Morgantown, Fairmont and Weston to help the 3 local workers. All this new technology provides them is Big Brother to watch over them. First Energy has taken local control of line restoration from Mon Power to where there is several layers and procedures for a lineman to go through before they can restore power after making repairs. During the derechio last year my electric was off. I found the problem early in the morning, but it was after dark before permission was given to refuse my line. If they want to improve restoration time ..... HIRE MORE WORKERS!

  • NCWV

    They've always had phones that could have been used to contact the dispatcher and tell them that they found a break near the one they were working on and would be repairing it too. As it was, a homeowner could walk out to where a crew was working and tell them of a tree on the line just out of sight of where they were that very second. Did they move down the line and repair that issue too? No. The homeowner was instructed to call the power company and report it so they could make up a work order and assign a crew to it. They would send a crew in the next day or two to repair a line 100 feet from the one they fixed the day before. Any company that is that inefficient isn't going to get better just because they bought new computers.

  • Steven Hamrick

    Who are they trying to fool. The line workers had computers in their trucks to get them where they needed to go. I have been retired from this company for a few years as a lineman. We I first started with the company we had 25 lineman on day shift and got the new business and a lot of maintenance work done at our service center. Today their is one small crew of three and two service workers on day shift.Customers need to be prepared to wait longer for new service hook ups and need to buy yourself a generator. That the first jhing I did when I retired.

  • Jim

    They have had computers in their line trucks for years the only difference now is that they can be dispatched using them. They also have had RF meters for 10 years or better.

  • Larry

    One thing MonPower has is that their rights-of-way are in much better condition than the "other" power co.

  • Skip

    They don't have RF meters for residential customers either. The "other" power company is installing their 2nd generation of RF meters.

  • Rob J

    Why did this take so long? The technology for this has been available for at least a decade. The "other" power company in the state has been using it for years. As with anything, it is only as good as the information the crews feed back into it.