ComEd creates new response plan for Lincolnshire, region
ComEd crews have been making upgrades to the region's power system in recent weeks designed to improve system reliability and reduce outages. | Photo courtesy of ComEd
Updated: December 3, 2012 1:35AM
LINCOLNSHIRE — ComEd has changed its emergency response procedures to power outages after community leaders throughout the Chicago area took issue with the utility’s previous operations.
Municipal staffs from across the region have been working together through the Northwest Municipal Conference to come up with recommendations for ComEd on how to improve its outage response, said Mark Fowler, the executive director of the conference.
“At first, ComEd was reluctant to participate, but once the company realized the seriousness of the situation, it became engaged,” he said. “To ComEd’s credit, this time it became very pro-active.”
According to ComEd, its infrastructure improvements and smart grid technology have resulted in 29 percent fewer power interruptions region wide between January and September of this year when compared to last year for the same time period. The average interruptions per customer has been 0.98 times this year, compared to an average of 1.39 interruptions in 2011.
From January through September in 2011, Lincolnshire utility customers experienced an average of 1.88 losses of power. Residents lost power an average of .98 times during those months this year. Buffalo Grove and Long Grove residents experienced similar improvements this summer.
The numbers also show a significant improvement in time local customers spent without power.
“ComEd’s electric system performance is strong (among the top 25 percent nationally) and we continue to invest in the system to improve performance for our customers,” ComEd spokeswoman Noelle Gaffeny wrote in an e-mail.
After months of work, ComEd has changed its procedures to reflect the ideas that were discussed during the talks, Fowler said, creating new protocols to provide better communication to communities and customers about the status of outages. It also is planning more effective dispatching of ComEd Crews during widespread outages.
Previously, decisions on power restoration were made at ComEd’s centralized dispatch office in Joliet, and were based on the number of customers impacted.
That system resulted in ComEd’s municipal affairs representatives to be overwhelmed by calls from more than 20 communities, each asking for updates on power problems.
Under the new plan, Joint Operation Centers, to be staffed by ComEd and municipal staff representatives, will open when an area outage occurs, Fowler said.
They are to serve as communication hubs between the communities and the company, he added.
ComEd’s northern territory has been divided into three regions: Northeast, West and South. The Northeast Region is broken into Glenbard, Libertyville, Maywood, Mount Prospect and Skokie-Techny.
Also, ComEd has launched new communication tools, including two-way texting, a smart phone app and a publicly accessible outage map.
The texting and phone app are designed to allow customers to contact ComEd when their power is out and receive updates on the work to fix it.
The interactive map will allow customers to learn the number of customers without power, what work has been done, the probable cause of the outage and the approximate restoration time.
Fred Kruger, Chief of the Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District, said Tuesday that he has been pleased with ComEd’s response times to emergencies. He provided Tuesday morning’s fire call as an example: a ComEd meter at a nearby home caught fire, prompting both agencies to work together.
“We called them, and they were there in 15 minutes,” Kruger said. “I think they’ve done a good job, as far as we’re concerned.”
He added that this summer was too small of a sample size to judge how well the utility’s new infrastructure and communication plans are working.
“We did not have a big storm season,” he said.