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.