Oklahoma Gas and Electric stages gear, calls up workers to respond to outages caused by coming storm
Oklahomans fresh off a massive electrical outage in late October caused by an unseasonably early ice storm face the potential for additional outages this next week.
But if outages happen during this current storm, they much likely will be more localized and the result of unfortunate encounters between out-of-control vehicles and power poles that support transformers and electrical distribution lines.
Oklahoma Gas & Electric is prepared to respond to those types of situations as this latest event evolves.
Earlier this week, it activated an incident command system to monitor the services it provides to its 858,000 customers.
Nicole Rhodes, who is overseeing the system’s operation during the event as the utility’s storm incident commander, said the utility has pre-staged materials it expects it might need on line trucks it will use to respond to outages when they happen.
Rhodes said equipment that has been staged on the utility’s trucks includes power poles, wires, transformers, cross arms and insulators.
Numerous staging sites for those trucks and the crews that would man them have been designated, though they won’t be activated unless they are needed.
When the staging sites are in use, OG&E intends to provide workers at those locations with food and shelter while their vehicles are being restocked with supplies or serviced.
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It also has mobilized more than 1,000 linemen, tree trimmers and support team members — including bulldozer operators — who will be available to respond to outages when they happen.
“We use them to almost create roadways where we need them to be able to get to a piece of equipment that needs to be repaired out in the middle of a pasture or something like that,” Rhodes said.
People who experience an outage during the storm can assist OG&E several ways, Rhodes said.
First, they should make sure yard gates are unlocked and make sure their pets are secured so that line workers and tree trimmers can easily and safely access their properties.
“Most of our equipment is going to be in their back yards,” she observed.
In cases where a line is down, they should notify the utility of the situation so that its workers will be aware and they should stay away from the potentially dangerous wires.
Rhodes asked for customers to also remember that COVID-19 service protocols are in place and that they should stay socially distanced from responding linemen and tree trimmers.
Plus, she noted that customers need to be aware that they are responsible for getting repairs made to on-house service receptacles that are damaged in situations where service drop lines have fallen between a utility pole and a structure.
The utility on Friday urged its customers to stay weather aware, to check road conditions before traveling, to have stocked emergency kits available both at home and in vehicles, and to make sure all of their mobile devices are fully charged.
It also has beefed up its staff at its power plants, in case any equipment fails that could impact its ability to supply power to the grid.
“Obviously, if we do have blizzard-like conditions, our greatest concern is for our employees’ safety as they try to get to where they need to go to get power outages restored,” Rhodes said. “We are ready to go, ready to respond, but we have to have safe driving conditions for that to happen.”