ComEd creates new response plan for Lake Zurich, regional outages
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: November 5, 2012 10:41AM
LAKE ZURICH — 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.”
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.
“I’m very hopeful that this will make a difference,” said Lake Zurich Village President Suzanne Branding, who added that it’s difficult to tell at this point because there have been no major weather events in the area since the changes were made.
Branding said village officials will be able to more accurately evaluate the new system the next time severe weather hits the area.
“I haven’t had the residents calling about it like they have in the past,” said Branding. “I’m very hopeful that this will help.”
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.
Lake Zurich’s Joint Operation Center is located in Mount Prospect. The centers are to serve as communication hubs between the communities and the company, Fowler said.
“That’s what it’s all about,” said Dave Wheelock, Lake Zurich’s fire chief and emergency management director. “Prioritizing and getting crews out as soon as possible.”
Wheelock said one of the main concerns that came out of the high number of outages in July of 2011 was that municipalities were not well connected to critical care facilities like hospitals, nursing homes, and police and fire stations.
“It now gives the municipality a place to call, so we can make sure our critical facilities are addressed,” he said. “Certainly, it’s a much better system than what was in place before.”
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.
Lake Zurich’s operations center has not been activated yet due to an absence of severe weather events in 2012.
Wheelock explained that there are 254,000 accounts in the Mount Prospect group. If 51,000 go dark for three hours or more, the local response center will be activated.
“If it becomes so widespread, they will activate the operations center,” he said.
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.