Milsoft Helps Public Power Systems Contend with Major Storms

Keeps OMS/IVR/GIS Operational, Customers Informed, and Crews on Track to Speed Recovery

 

February 2018

As 2017’s powerful Hurricanes Harvey and Irma threatened catastrophic damage to U.S. coastal regions, Milsoft Utility Solutions sprang into action to activate its storm mode support program. In advance of impending storms, Milsoft staffs up and checks on the preparation of its customers and software. During a storm and the recovery period, Milsoft monitors in real time how its software is operating at customer sites, provides 24/7 online and phone support, and tracks and reports internally how many consumers are out of service. This advanced level of support impressed and reassured several of Milsoft’s public power clients in Texas, Florida, and North Carolina as the hurricanes approached and hit their communities.

In partnership with Hometown Connections, the utility services subsidiary of the American Public Power Association, Milsoft Utility Solutions provides public power utilities with powerful engineering, operations, and customer service software. Milsoft’s outage management, interactive voice response, geographic information system, and engineering analysis products maximize the utility’s ability to give employees and customers fast and accurate information. Milsoft has long been renowned for the superior performance of its maintenance and technical support teams.

Ocala Electric Utility
“One of the great things about Milsoft is they understand we are a utility and a city,” said Chad Lynch, Supervisor, Systems Operations Center, Florida’s Ocala Electric Utility. “A few days before Hurricane Irma hit, as we were running around preparing our families and utility for the storm, the outage management team from Milsoft called me. They made a backup of our database and asked what else they could do to help. The IVR team sent me an email, also offering to help, pledging to be available 24/7 throughout the storm and its recovery period.”

Ocala Electric uses Milsoft IVR in a hosted environment, with the system servers located in Miami. “Milsoft reassured me the Miami facility had its own back-up plan in place,” Lynch said. “For past events, we brought in a team of customer service representatives to answer phones live during the storm. But with Milsoft’s hosted IVR solution and its ability to allocate to our account up to 250 telephone lines on demand, we didn’t need to bring in people for Hurricane Irma.”

Ocala Electric has used Milsoft outage management for about 10 years and its IVR system about 8 years, switching to the hosted IVR solution 3 years ago. Lynch explained, “When we were due to upgrade our IVR system, the cost differential of the onsite versus offsite options made the offsite set up a better deal. Someone else handles the system maintenance and our customers never hear a busy signal when they call us for help or information.” Ocala Electric’s OMS and IVR systems stayed up throughout Hurricane Irma, even as 86 percent or 43,000 of the utility’s 52,000 customers lost power.

According to Lynch, following hurricanes from 2016, the Florida state government requires all utilities to provide updates on outages to government agencies every three hours, 24/7, during the storm restoration period. “Following Hurricane Irma, all of this system status information came from the Milsoft outage management system. Furthermore, we were putting in 16 hour days. Each morning, we made a game plan for the day, based on data from the OMS.”

Lynch noted, “Milsoft sets a very high bar in terms of maintaining a culture of excellence in customer service. No matter who answers the phone, each representative has quick access to our account history and can diagnose and suggest a fix for any problem very quickly. I hold all of our vendors to the exacting Milsoft customer service standard.”

City of Concord, NC
A Milsoft client since 2001, the City of Concord in North Carolina uses Milsoft’s OMS, IVR, engineering analysis, and geographic information systems. “As Hurricane Irma was approaching, Milsoft checked in with me, asking if we needed any help with our preparations,” said Andrea Cline, SCADA/Substation Coordinator for Concord’s Electric Systems Department. “The IVR system is pivotal to our normal operations and critical during a major storm such as Irma, so we appreciated Milsoft’s attention to our situation.” With 24 phone lines operating at the same time, customers can use the automated system to report an outage and receive a recovery time estimate. If customers can access the Internet during an outage, they can view a map of the electric system status.

“The Milsoft OMS/IVR solution enables us to conduct a dynamic analysis when storms occur,” Andrea Cline said. “We can view onscreen the current outage predictions, make quick assessments of the entire system, dispatch crews accordingly, and track crew assignments/locations until restorations are complete. Because the system knows precisely where every meter is, we can dispatch repair crews to the right place very rapidly. In addition, the Milsoft OMS allows us to provide feedback to our customers regarding the status of their restoration. ”

Cline noted Milsoft’s proactive approach to customer service. “Periodically, our account representative logs into our Milsoft system to check for problems. She may notice a system discrepancy and suggest a reboot or windows upgrade, for example. Because she receives the same email and text alerts that I do when system issues arrive, we remain in sync about the status of our Milsoft system at all times.” Cline reports that the City of Concord is considering Milsoft’s hosted IVR solution, in order to access up to 250 phone lines on demand and with all maintenance outsourced.

Keys Energy Services
Keys Energy Services (KEYS) is the public power utility for the Lower Florida Keys. Headquartered in Key West, KEYS provides electricity to more than 28,000 customers. After Hurricane Irma hit the area on September 10, 2017, all KEYS customers lost their electric service. While all feeders were energized by September 21, recovery continued until the end of October, early November. “Prior to the hurricane making landfall, Milsoft reached out to our GIS team to confirm they would be available as needed,” said Jeff Partington, Control Center Supervisor. “It wasn’t until a week after Hurricane Irma made landfall that we had the opportunity to contact Milsoft for GIS and OMS support and they jumped right in.”

Bryan Texas Utilities
After Hurricane Harvey hit Texas on August 25, 2017, Bryan Texas Utilities (BTU) experienced scattered outages throughout its 640 square mile service territory.  Most outages were due to trees outside the rights of way falling on lines due to wind and the ground becoming saturated from the immense amount of rain received.  Approximately 1,500 BTU customers were impacted by outages.  Response times were extended due to the utility’s inability to reach certain areas until floodwaters receded.

“As they always do, Milsoft provided 24/7 remote support during the storm for any issues that we might have encountered,” said Bernie Acre, Chief Information Officer, City of Bryan. “Their support team is responsive, knowledgeable, and friendly. They have a quick turnaround on support calls and will help address the immediate problem as well as make recommendations to mitigate the problem moving forward. The account management team is easy to work with and reacts immediately to questions and issues.”

For More Information

Chad Lynch
Supervisor, System Operations Center
Ocala Electric Utility
Ocala, Florida
352-351-6600
clynch@ocalafl.org

Andrea A Cline
SCADA/Substation Coordinator II, Electric Systems Department
City of Concord NC
704-920-5311
clinea@concordnc.gov

Bernie Acre, CGCIO
Chief Information Officer
City of Bryan
979-209-5111
bacre@briantx.gov

Jeff Partington
Control Center Supervisor
Keys Energy Services
Cell 305-304-1574
Office 305-295-1062
Jeff.Partington@keysenergy.com

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