Avineon Joins GeoNexus Partner Network as Systems Integration Partner

GeoNexus welcomes Avineon as a new Systems Integration Partner to the GeoNexus Partner Network. Avineon is a premier geospatial solutions provider helping organizations increase operational effectiveness and efficiency using state-of-the-art solutions. Through this partnership, GeoNexus and Avineon will bring together unparalleled expertise to clients offering comprehensive geospatial solutions and ensuring data integrity through the GeoNexus Integration Platform.

“We have had the privilege to work with Avineon over the years and are excited to take this next step to formalize our relationship,” mentioned Skip Heise, CEO and President of GeoNexus. “As a System Integration Partner, we will look to leverage Avineon’s expertise in geospatial solutions and Esri Utility Network to enable electric, gas, water, and wastewater utility companies to elevate the business value of GIS and ensure data integrity for organizations.”

GeoNexus and Avineon have both received the Esri Utility Network Management Specialty recognition for expertise with the implementation of solutions using the ArcGIS Utility Network. This relationship will allow organizations greater access to the combined expertise across GeoNexus and Avineon teams as more organizations migrate to the Utility Network.

With a focus on data integration, system integration and data quality, the GeoNexus Integration Platform ensures the integrity of an organizations enterprise data through an industry leading method of synchronization (full database compare) ensures data is in alignment and is not prone to errors caused by dropped or misprocessed messages common with other synchronization tools.

“Avineon is very familiar with GeoNexus after years of supporting GeoWorx and Avineon mutual customers. We are excited to formally join the GeoNexus Partner Network and look forward to working closely together in support of customers worldwide,” said Joel Campbell, Vice President - Commercial Systems at Avineon.

About GeoNexus Technologies
At GeoNexus Technologies our mission is to provide our customers with a proven platform for system integration that is fully supported and ensures the integrity of their enterprise data. Our platform integrates data, applications, and workflows, easily and efficiently with no-code. We have productized connectors for enterprise systems from IBM, Oracle, ABB, Esri, SAP, and other industry leaders. Our integration platform is used by asset-intensive organizations across the globe in industries including utilities, telecommunications, pipeline, transportation, and government. For more information, visit https://www.geo-nexus.com/.

About Avineon:
Avineon, Inc. was founded to help you Visualize IT and See IT Through. Since 1992, our customers have relied on us to deliver high quality and value in information technology, geospatial, and engineering support solutions. We offer state of the art information management systems that leverage business process management and data analytics technology to improve execution of our customers’ mission-critical tasks. With headquarters in McLean, Virginia and offices in Florida; Michigan; Canada; Europe; India; and the Middle East, we stand ready to apply our CMMI Maturity Level 3 (DEV/SVC) and ISO 9001:2015 compliant processes for the benefit of your organization.

Avineon will be exhibiting at the 2014 ESRI Federal User Conference Booth #124 between February 10th and 11th 2014

Avineon will be exhibiting at the 2014 ESRI Federal User Conference, held at the Washington DC Convention Center between February 10th and 11th 2014. Our booth number is 124 in the main exhibit hall. Please stop by and meet members of our Geospatial Team, including Mr. Joel Campbell, Vice President of Commercial Systems, Fred Hejazi Director of Federal Geospatial Services and Drew Meren, Business Development for Geospatial Services.

Our team will demonstrate some of the firm's GIS capabilities including Silverlight / Flex to HTML5 migration services and secure mobile application using 2048 bit encryption CAC enabled devices.

To schedule a demonstration please contact Fred Hejazi at fhejazi@avineon.com or at (410)707-2083.


Outage Restoration Maturity Model featured in Transmission & Distribution World

Not only is “Be Prepared” the Boy Scouts of America motto, it also is the credo of every utility emergency manager in the world. Utility managers clearly understand the correlation between emergency preparedness and effective response. Electric utilities in the United States face ever-increasing pressure from customers, regulatory agencies and municipal leaders to improve restoration performance. Can this be done by simply improving preparation practices? Can more be done to ensure a utility's response to a severe weather event or other natural disaster is as effective as possible?

Please Visit Avineon at the Esri International User Conference July 23-27, 2012

Join 16,000 geogeeks at the Esri User Conference (Esri UC)

Choose from 300 moderated sessions, over 450 hours of technical training, and 13 preconference seminars. Listen to inspirational keynotes. Visit more than 300 solution providers. Gawk at the world's largest conference Map Gallery. Sit down face-to-face with technical support staff, customer service representatives, and software developers. It's all here. All that's missing is you.

Avineon Partner Autodesk Launches New Consulting System Integrator Partner Program

CSI Partners Deliver Enterprise-Class Services to Customers Across Multiple Industries

Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ:ADSK), a leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software, has unveiled a new Consulting System Integrator (CSI) Partner Program to help grow Autodesk's global business network.

Meet increasing customer demand for an integrated technology and process offering. The program is intended to help professionals realize the benefits of connected workflows in Autodesk design and creation suites for building, entertainment, engineering, construction, infrastructure, product, plant and factory design.

Gehry Technologies, CSI Global Services, Pty, Ltd., Avineon and PCO Innovation are the first four Autodesk CSI partners with Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) expertise. The CSI Partner Program helps empower these companies to better serve their customers by expanding their consulting services to firms seeking to transform business and design workflows. With a focus on enterprise customers, CSI partners will help Autodesk and the company's existing channel partners identify the right solutions for customers. By working with Autodesk, CSI partners can extend their services into the Autodesk business community and increase the number of services they provide.

"Furthering the business relationship with Autodesk is exciting and a key component to our growth," said Dayne Myers, CEO, Gehry Technologies. "Customers expect us to help them overcome organizational, technical and process challenges to achieve operational excellence. Working closely with Autodesk and its reseller network allows us to provide the capacity, credibility, connections, capability, and coverage necessary to help architects, engineers, contractors and owners get better value from Autodesk technology."

"Autodesk resellers have tremendous experience in selling Autodesk software and delivering value-added implementation services," said Jim Bailey, vice president of strategic solutions at Autodesk. "By working with CSI partners, resellers can concentrate on more strategic long-term deals driven by the CSI partners that will create software sales pull-through and local implementation services."

For additional information about the CSI partner program or other Autodesk programs, visit the Autodesk Reseller Center.

About Autodesk

Autodesk, Inc., is a leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software. Customers across the manufacturing, architecture, building, construction, and media and entertainment industries -- including the last 17 Academy Award winners for Best Visual Effects -- use Autodesk software to design, visualize and simulate their ideas. Since its introduction of AutoCAD software in 1982, Autodesk continues to develop the broadest portfolio of state-of-the-art software for global markets. For additional information about Autodesk, visit www.autodesk.com.

Autodesk and AutoCAD are registered trademarks of Autodesk, Inc., and / or its subsidiaries and / or affiliates in the USA and / or other countries. Academy Award is a registered trademark of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. All other brand names, product names or trademarks belong to their respective holders. Autodesk reserves the right to alter product and services offerings, and specifications and pricing at any time without notice, and is not responsible for typographical or graphical errors that may appear in this document.

© 2012 Autodesk, Inc. All rights reserved.

Autodesk, Inc.
Angela Simoes, 415-302-2934

Avineon India Achieves Health Safety & Environment (HSE) Certification

Alexandria, VA– April 12, 2011 – Avineon, Inc., a successful provider of information technology (IT), geospatial, engineering and program management services, today announced that its subsidiary, Avineon India Private Ltd., has received the Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) certification. This includes certification for the international standards of ISO 14001:2004 for EMS (Environment Management System) and OHSAS (Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series) 18001:2007. Following an independent audit, Avineon India Private Ltd. is now ISO 14001:2004 and OHSAS 18001:2007 compliant.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is the world’s largest developer and publisher of international standards. ISO 14001:2004 outlines requirements to build and maintain environmental management systems based on legal and industry standards. It assists organizations in protecting the environment, preventing pollution, and in improving their overall environmental performance. OHSAS 18001:2007 is an international standard related to occupational health and safety management systems. This standard outlines the actions an organization should undertake in order to mitigate the occupational hazards of its activities.

“Avineon India has succeeded in implementing the processes needed to achieve the compliance with ISO 14001:2004 and OHSAS 18001:2007” said Avineon’s President and CEO, Karlu Rambhala. “By meeting these rigorous international standards, our staff has reinforced Avineon’s dedication to quality and practicing standards that better serve our customers, employees, and the environment.”

About Avineon

Avineon, Inc. was founded to help you Visualize IT and See IT Through. Since 1992, our customers have relied on us to deliver technically sound information technology, geospatial, and engineering support solutions. More recently, we have leveraged our experience to develop Avineonics®, a state-of-the-art emergency management process suite. With headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia and offices in Florida, Canada, Europe, and India, we stand ready to apply our CMMI Maturity Level 3 and ISO 9001:2008 compliant processes for the benefit of your organization. For more information, please visit www.avineon.com...

Avineon Helps NorthWestern Energy Avoid Data Freeze

Duke Energy Corp. and Progress Energy Inc. announced in January that both companies’ boards of directors have unanimously approved a definitive merger agreement to combine the two companies in a stock-for-stock transaction. The combined company, to be called Duke Energy, will be the largest U.S. utility, with:

  • Some $65 billion in enterprise value and $37 billion in market capitalization,

  • The country’s largest regulated customer base, providing service to some 7.1 million electric customers in six regulated service territories: North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio,

  • Some 57 gigawatts of domestic generating capacity from a diversified mix of coal, nuclear, natural gas, oil and renewable resources, and

  • The largest regulated nuclear fleet in the U.S.

“Our industry is entering a building phase where we must invest in an array of new technologies to reduce our environmental footprints and become more efficient,” said Jim Rogers, Duke Energy chairman, president and CEO, in a press release. “By merging our companies, we can do that more economically for our customers, improve shareholder value and continue to grow.

“Combining Duke Energy and Progress Energy creates a utility with greater financial strength and enhanced ability to meet our challenges head-on.”

Progress Energy Chairman, President and CEO Bill Johnson said the combination is a natural fit.

“It makes clear, strategic sense and creates exceptional value for our shareholders,” Johnson said. “Together, we can leverage our best practices to achieve even higher levels of safety, operational excellence and customer satisfaction and save money for customers by combining our fuel purchasing power and the dispatch of our generating plants. This merger also provides predictable earnings and cash flows to support our dividend payments to shareholders.”

When the merger is completed, Rogers will become executive chairman of the new organization. In this role, Rogers will advise the CEO on strategic matters, play an active role in government relations and serve as the company’s lead energy policy spokesman.

Johnson will become the new company’s president and CEO.

Both Rogers and Johnson will serve on the combined company’s board of directors, which will be composed of 18 members: 11 designated by Duke Energy’s board of directors and seven designated by Progress Energy’s board of directors.

The combined company will be headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., and will maintain substantial operations in Raleigh, N.C.

The companies expect to close by the end of 2011.

IEEE Initiative Makes Color Books Easier to Use, Revise

Carey J. Cook, IEEE

The pace of technology innovation has prompted the IEEE Standards Association to update its Color Books series with more up-to-date information and to give the IEEE more flexibility for making timely revisions.

Each of the current 13 books contains information, some of it current and some worthy of revision. Moving to a chunked information approach is in line with current trends. During the past decade, the publishing world has moved toward an online model because it makes information much more accessible to users.

Several of the Color Books are in wide use by engineers in electric utilities including: the Emerald Book on powering and grounding sensitive loads; the Orange Book on emergency and standby power systems; the Buff Book on protection and coordination; the Brown and Violet books on power systems analysis; and the Gold Book on reliability. The Yellow Book covers maintenance, operation and safety of industrial and commercial power systems.

IEEE’s initiative will replace the original Color Books with some 55 standards covering specific technical topics. Converting them into these smaller standards will allow power systems engineers to select only the information they require while still being confident that it:

(1) Conforms to current best practices,

(2) Is technically correct, and

(3) Reflects the latest technologies.

The new format also will reduce the opportunity for duplicate material to appear, which occasionally occurred in the original series.

The project will be managed by eight working groups, including one that will develop an introductory book to serve as a detailed index to the topics covered by the 55 dot standards. The remaining working groups will develop the actual dot standards. Because there are parallels between a large industrial electrical system and small utility distribution systems, many of the new standards will be useful for those who generate, transmit and distribute electricity to end users and manufacturing facilities.

Carey J. Cook has been with S&C Electric Co. 33 years and is a senior strategic marketing manager in the Strategic Marketing Group. Cook is chairman of the Technical Books Coordination Committee in the Industrial and Commercial Power Systems Department of the Industry Application Society

with IEEE.


Smart Grid Interoperability—Adopting Strategies Today for a Smarter Tomorrow

Tim Wolf, Itron Inc.

While the industry is in the midst of unprecedented change, utilities envision migrating from an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) to the broader applications of a smart grid. The two go hand in hand: The shift to a smart grid focus will transform the way utilities manage and deliver energy and the way consumers use it.

But do we really comprehend how the underlying network architecture needs to support advanced metering requirements, comprehensive smart grid applications and objectives?

Utilities seek a smart grid communications architecture that will support multiple applications and connect millions of devices that go beyond smart meters. These include distribution automation devices and sensors, distributed resources, electric vehicles, smart appliances and other technologies that proliferate into the market. Equally important, utilities want an architecture that will enable them to run multiple applications—AMI, distribution automation, demand response—atop a common, secure, world-class network infrastructure instead of through a meter-centric AMI headend.

In response to the multi-application smart grid challenge, some technology companies and utilities understand how to build a viable architecture that takes advantage of industry standards to lower the total ownership costs for utilities while meeting current business case requirements.

To future proof the smart grid, the core network infrastructure must be adaptable. The smart grid represents a continuously evolving network of networks and system of systems that must support utility and customer-facing smart grid applications. This is critical to a utility’s overall smart grid strategy to ensure a strong return on investment and to avoid stranded assets or technological obsolescence.

From improving distribution system efficiency and reliability to empowering customers to control energy and costs, today’s advanced metering networks must mature into interoperable, multi-application networks that are scalable, reliable, secure and affordable.

Itron is collaborating with Cisco to design a unified, enterprise-class network architecture that is secure, simple to deploy and manage, and extensible to multiple utility applications. This alliance brings the world’s leading smart metering and networking communications suppliers together to deliver the definitive 21st century Internet protocol (IP)-based communications and control platform for the smart grid market.

The companies’ engineering teams are co-developing a reference design that defines a standard for smart grid field area network communications using the most advanced version of IPv6 and other applicable open standards. This, for the first time in the smart metering and smart grid industries, will create an open and interoperable network stack from top to bottom while fully supporting proposed guidelines from the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) cybersecurity requirements.

Once completed, the reference design will be made available to other smart grid technology providers to implement within their devices and applications. Driving this widespread adoption of open standards among vendors is the only way to solve several challenges hobbling smart grid progress. First among those challenges is optimizing the ownership costs of the systems by standardizing certain aspects of the architecture such as network operations and network security and enabling a much wider range of applications and devices to run over a common network architecture.

This partnership will open the grid by employing industry standards and by seamlessly connecting any smart device or application within the network to transform the electric grid from proprietary and closed to open and flexible. This openness will improve the overall economics and business case for far-reaching smart grid implementations by reducing utilities’ total ownership cost and by providing a highly adaptable platform that enables real-time and pervasive monitoring and control for grid operators and consumers.

Innovative technology provides the foundation for a new way energy is delivered. The key to extracting long-term value out of the connected grid is to open it. The broad industry adoption of open standards will reduce the total ownership cost, enable true interoperability and standardized security and unleash a wave of innovation for emerging products, services and programs that will create new value streams to utilities and customers. This is vital to ensuring that utilities are building out a smart grid that unites utilities, consumers and technology.

It is time for AMI architecture to grow up and become smart grid architecture.

Tim Wolf is director of marketing for consumer outreach at Itron.


Telvent Goes to Moscow

The Inter-Regional Distribution Grid Co. (IDGC) of Centre Moscow will implement Telvent’s advanced distribution management system (DMS) solution to further improve the reliability of its electrical grid.

IDGC is one of the largest utility providers in Russia, serving 11 regions throughout the central and western parts of the country. With Telvent’s solution, IDGC gets full network monitoring and control in one complete system to plan, design and operate a smart grid. IDGC will integrate Telvent DMS with existing components of its infrastructure, including supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), outage management system and customer relationship management software. This integration will provide a visual and detailed model of the distribution network to achieve advanced network analysis, fault management and energy analysis on a local and central level.

”As utilities throughout the world upgrade to a smarter grid, more emphasis is being placed on maximizing the benefits of distributed management systems,” said Telvent CEO Ignacio Gonzalez. “Telvent is proud to partner with IDGC and provide smart grid solutions for its 15 million customers.”

IDGC and Telvent began the first of a three-phase pilot program in November and expect to complete the DMS implementation by January 2012.

NorthWestern Energy Avoids Data Freeze

David Ridderikhoff, Avineon and Jolene Sestrich, NorthWestern Energy

NorthWestern Energy (NWE) serves some 656,000 customers throughout Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. The company maintained homegrown records of existing facilities that it needed to align to Montana’s state cadastral landbase. [Editor’s note: A cadastral landbase is a written, publically filed lay of the land—both natural and man-made—that impacts infrastructure, all according to data in the public records, including survey statistics.] The cadastral landbase included data about property lines while the homegrown NWE information had updates such as new subdivisions, field notes and dimensions for underground facilities.

Aligning the two data sources required careful oversight because data from both systems had to be preserved to ensure the company was working with the most accurate data. The challenge of consolidation was in handling data that NWE needed on a day-to-day basis. Previous attempts yielded a freeze, suspending on-going information updates while data was being manipulated. This required updates to be captured after the manipulated data was returned.

Along with avoiding data freeze, NWE had additional goals for the project, including the creation of a pole-span model of its overhead electricity coverage, eliminating redundant information, reconciling field-collected geospatial information system (GIS) coordinates for its existing poles, and correcting connectivity and establishing service connections for its customers. Along with the logistics of managing a multitask project on live data, the changes to the existing data needed to be compatible with Intergraph’s G / Technology platform. NWE had upgraded to this data management software a year earlier.

NWE recently implemented the G / Technology platform to standardize and streamline its data management and was migrating data from its previous FRAMME system to the new framework. Once the data migration was underway, NWE began evaluating GIS service organizations that could provide smooth data cleanup and realignment without disturbing the daily workings of its electricity and natural gas units. Through Intergraph, NWE learned of information technology and geospatial services provider Avineon Inc.

NWE contracted with Avineon for a small project to capture its 500 kVA network to G / Technology, a project that was quickly expanded as Avineon began to explore the possibilities of manipulating G / Technology within Oracle database software.

Avineon’s first step in the expanded project was to create a snapshot of NWE’s existing data to serve as a working file. Avineon then migrated the G / Technology data from the snapshot of each district to Avineon’s production environment. In parallel, the cadastral landbase was referenced with the NWE homegrown landbase while eliminating duplicate information and keeping only the NWE specific information. Technicians also splashed the global positioning satellite (GPS) locations into their production environment and confirmed the locations of existing poles, with classifications such as size and diameter. GPS data was captured, and coordinates and pole numbers were aligned to the existing structures. Using the combined data, Avineon realigned and converted NWE’s electrical overhead facility model from the previous location and format to a pole-span model, which reflects lines that run from pole to pole with a relationship to their attaching structure, providing an accurate means by which NWE can track assets to a physical location. This updated data will enable NWE to improve its customer responses and anticipate what materials and manpower will be needed in the field.

During the data cleanup and realignment process, the company introduced a new methodology for updating and converting data that dealt specifically with G / Technology’s Oracle database. Where FRAMME, the old software solution, used a computer-aided design (CAD) system to maintain its graphics and Oracle to store attribute information, G / Technology graphics are generated directly from Oracle spatial coordinate and attribute information. Avineon developed a process to extract the edits performed and created scripts to communicate these changes to the G / Technology.

One of the biggest challenges was managing the data backlogs. After creating a snapshot of NWE’s database for a given district, the company performed a comparison to capture differences and gaps. The physical changes—such as adding a new subdivision, deleting removed transformers and adding new poles—presented the biggest obstacles to properly maintaining and updating the database. NWE was still using the homegrown landbase, and the new system needed the original and new locations of related facilities due to the realignment and conversion process. Avineon used scripts to update the production database to provide deletes, attribute / component updates and graphic relocations.

Once the company developed these scripts, it performed a quality assurance and quality control test and then sent the scripts to NWE, where they were put into production. Capturing the backlogs, updating the realigned data and providing new scripts to NWE was handled within two-weeks to reduce the overall GIS backlog of the particular district. NWE is rolling out updates for each district and synchronizing all of the data into the system. Due to the data cleanup and alignment, NWE already has seen an improvement in data integrity, and the company can respond to customer calls, provide feedback and update the facility information in a more timely matter.

David Ridderikhoff is senior project manager with Avineon. Jolene Sestrich is manager of data systems with Northwestern Energy.


The Governator Exits Stage Left

Kathleen Davis, Senior Editor

At times, he angered his own party. He was a handful—a big, brash personality difficult to compete with. He was a source of pride and frustration for Californians, sometimes at the same time. And he is the Governator no more.

Monday, Jan. 3 marked Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “hasta la vista” to politics in the Golden State. He is no longer a governor. He’ll have to return to his career as matinee god.

Schwarzenegger blew into office a little less than eight years ago when nearly the entire state hated then-Gov. Gray Davis, and headlines such as “Pacific Gas and Electric to Gov. Davis: We’re Busted” were regular bits of ink in the trade presses. Deregulation had taken the state—and the state utilities—to the cleaners, and Davis was left holding the bag, whether he was at fault or not.

Schwarzenegger swept in like the action hero he often portrayed—trying to save the day for the state and for the state of energy.

During Schwarzenegger’s big rescue, I worked for Electric Light & Power magazine and wrote a piece on Schwarzenegger’s energy plans. (You can read it online by typing this long link into your browser: http://elp.com/index/display/article-display/195657/articles/electric-light-power/volume-81/issue-12/industry-news/arnies-new-plan-the-gubernator-sets-sights-on-energy.html.) At that time, the only thing we were arguing about concerning Schwarzenegger was whether to use “governator” or “gubernator” as his nickname. (Governator won, but I still have a soft spot for gubernator.)

Whatever the nickname, though, Schwarzenegger was going to fix it all.

“I will restore stability to our energy system and stimulate private investment in electricity generation and transmission,” the governor’s campaign website stated at the time.

He had a multipoint plan that included:

  • Reforming the 13 state agencies with sway over the markets,

  • Creating a regulatory structure based on “other states and the FERC standard market design” while eliminating incentives for “gaming” the regulatory system,

  • Investing in natural gas and transmission capacity,

  • Encouraging conservation,

  • Creating reserve requirements for generators, and

  • Addressing “overpriced legacy power purchase agreements.”

How much of that he did or was necessary depends on whom you ask. No one talks about power purchase agreements anymore. The regulatory structure in the state hasn’t changed all that much, but there has been movement in transmission capacity and conservation. And he combated global warming like no Republican in history, in or out of the Golden State. He was even named 2010 Green Governor of the Year by the Beautiful Earth Group and Opportunity Green for his efforts.

When accepting the award, Schwarzenegger said, “California is showing the world that you can protect the environment and grow the economy at the same time. We are creating a new economic foundation for the 21st century built on clean fuel, clean energy and clean cars that is turning California into the green capital of the nation and the world, and I couldn’t be more proud of these accomplishments.”

Despite the California greening, the BBC reported on his last day in office that Schwarzenegger’s “political star has faded” since he came onto the scene. Approvals hovered in the 20 percentile range at his exit (close to Davis’ in 2003). Whether you think Schwarzenegger was a driving force for energy change or was stagnated by other issues no longer matters, except in his legacy. He handed over the state driver’s seat to Democrat Jerry Brown, a former governor who first served from 1975 to 1983.

It is likely that Brown will continue down Schwarzenegger’s greening power path (the environment and clean energy jobs were a part of his eight-point campaign platform). There is no word whether Brown will have as fabulous a nickname. Granted, in Brown’s first round as governor, he was called “Governor Moonbeam” by one journalist for his liberal policies. Somehow, that just doesn’t compare. In the nickname arena, the Governator will always reign supreme.

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Sustaining Emergency Readiness

By Anil Jayavarapu, Avineon, and Michael Caffrey, EPP

In Vince Lombardi’s famous quote, he states, “Practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.” This mantra holds true across a number of industries, including emergency preparedness for utility companies.

Millions of customers across the U.S. are affected by power outages each year. While these power outages are caused by a number of factors, energy delivery companies must remain in a state of perpetual readiness for managing emergencies throughout the year.

Due to multiple potential global threats such as terrorism, pandemics and cyberattacks, energy delivery companies are expanding their emergency management scope from traditional readiness and restoration for storms and other acts of nature to a multidimensional program that encompasses 21st century all hazards emergency management and response capabilities. This includes pandemic response plans, special security protocols for protecting the information technology (IT) infrastructure and procedures for collaborating with communities, as well as local, state and federal government entities.

The ongoing changes in internal and external standards, assets, people, processes and technology can debilitate response capabilities and upset business continuity during emergencies. Successful organizations have found that planning and conducting various levels of exercises and drills covering high- and medium-probability threats are the most effective tools to test plans for sustaining emergency readiness and ensuring operations continuity.

A Growing Challenge

Many customers take electricity and natural gas services for granted primarily because energy delivery companies go to great lengths to provide them with uninterrupted and reliable service. Each year events such as ice storms, hurricanes and fires damage assets (infrastructure and equipment), causing unavoidable large-scale service disruptions. During these events, utilities provide rapid restoration of service that is complex to manage. The response and recovery is costly on several fronts, including outlays for response personnel and asset replacement, as well as loss of revenue.

The Utility Storm Restoration report from Edison Electric Institute (EEI) that focused on investor-owned utilities illustrates these challenges. According to the EEI report, more than 12 million customers had service outages from 44 major storms between 1989 and 2003. These service outages averaged 280,000 customers per storm event and required an average of six days to restore services using an estimated 2,500 restoration personnel working at the peak of the restoration effort. The Kentucky Public Service Commission Report focuses on two recent disasters—the September 2008 wind storm and the January 2009 ice storm. It estimates the damage cost around $1.21 billion with millions of service outages.

The effectiveness of emergency response relies heavily on how well employees are trained in using the plans and procedures. The only constant in many companies is change—company ownership, employee roles and responsibilities, system expansions, upgrades and reconfigurations. This can make it challenging to sustain the desired level of readiness to respond to traditional and emerging emergencies.

Preparing to Meet the Challenge

When using emergency management processes and procedures to rapidly restore large-scale service disruptions, utility companies rely on employees, mutual assistance resources and contractors. Guiding these efforts are emergency plans and procedures. These plans describe the management, communication, operational and collaboration aspects of emergency functions, including prioritization strategies, crew mobilization protocols, mutual assistance agreements, evacuation procedures and safety procedures. The use of the incident command system (ICS) within these plans provides a standardized approach for effective response and recovery operations.

The key to preparedness lies with having adequate resources trained and experienced in using the emergency processes and protocols. Resources, both internal and external, are often expected to work collaboratively using processes and systems they may not use frequently during their normal business day. This can cause personnel to improvise or overlook critical steps when confronted with a real emergency.

During major emergency events, situations change rapidly, and little room for missteps and on-the-job training exists. Resources across multiple geographical locations must function in a synchronized manner in accordance with the emergency plans tailored for the specific events. A responder’s inability to quickly and effectively execute the plans could risk employee safety, delay the service restoration time and potentially cause customer dissatisfaction and regulatory scrutiny.

The Kentucky Public Service Commission report highlights the need for establishing routine communication protocols and the need for utility involvement in the state, local and community emergency exercises and drills.

Because responders are challenged to act quickly in difficult and rapidly changing situations, exercises and drills provide the best opportunity to practice emergency plans in a controlled environment, identify strengths and weaknesses, and identify improvements. Exercises also facilitate discussion and problem solving in a constructive manner. They are typically modeled around complex scenarios resembling previous incidents and anticipated events. Responders at the executive, command, management and tactical levels follow the emergency procedures, processes and tools to deliver the desired response. While some scenarios are best simulated with tabletop exercises, others are better addressed through functional or full-scale exercises.

The coordination and documentation process for scheduling, planning, designing, developing, conducting, evaluating and improving exercises and drills is complex. Using a structured processes or a standard such as U.S. Department of Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) as a template can improve the quality of outcomes.

Evaluation and improvement planning for emergencies requires clearly defined and articulated documentation on how specific tasks were performed from qualitative and quantitative standpoints during an exercise or a drill. It is important to identify lessons learned and corrective actions.

Data collection complexity increases with the number of participating members, organizational units and organizations. Software tools designed to collaborate and document exercises and drills can alleviate complexities and provide a cost-effective way to conduct effective exercises and drills for all-hazards readiness.

Benefits of Exercises and Drills

Planning and implementing exercises and drills provide several benefits, including:

  • Training and testing employees’ knowledge and awareness in deploying the emergency plans and processes,

  • Validating and benchmarking response and recovery capabilities, and

  • Identifying areas of improvements to achieve the desired state of perpetual readiness.

Costs associated with conducting well-planned and documented exercises and drills cannot be underestimated. Exercises and drills are resource-intensive and require commitment from many employees who would otherwise be focused on their primary job functions. A consistent program of exercises and drills, however, can build the expertise and readiness necessary to minimize the negative impacts that emergencies can have on employees, customers and business operations.

The correct balance must be struck with scheduling and designing the appropriate number and type of annual exercises and drills based on anticipated threats, actionable intelligence and weather forecasts. By planning and participating in adequate exercises and drills, energy delivery companies can be better prepared to meet high- and medium-probability threats.

Anil Jayavarapu is the director, business process management solutions at Avineon (http://avineon.com), an IT services and software solutions company serving utility customers for more than 18 years. Jayavarapu specializes in the process-driven approach for emergency management.

Michael Caffrey is the vice president of operations at EPP (http://emergencypreparednesspartnerships.com), a firm specializing in utility emergency preparedness and storm restoration. Caffrey previously served as manager of emergency preparedness for PEPCO Holdings Inc.

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