BWLs Outage Tracking System Broken For 7 Months Before Ice Storm - WLNS TV 6 Lansing - Jackson | Your Local News Leader

BWL's Outage Tracking System Broken For 7 Months Before Ice Storm

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) -- The Lansing Board of Water and Light says its "Outage Management System" was down for seven months in 2013, and that it wasn't operational until a week into December's massive ice storm.

It's one of the revelations following the release of an internal report looking into the ice storm and the utility's response to it.

BWL has been criticized for leaving residents in the dark for as long as 10 days.

Central to those problems was the Outage Management System. In its report, the BWL calls it a "powerful outage tool" that should provide information to help direct restoration crews, help provide information about the outage, and help customers know when power will be restored. 

The BWL says it got a new system in February of 2013, but that in May, it realized the "conductor cut" system wasn't working. That system helps BWL determine who has power and who doesn't. "We started working on [the conductor cut system] with our vendor, who is General Electric, and it took some number of months for them to work out a fix, and for us to work out a fix," said BWL CEO J. Peter Lark. "We should have been on it more quickly, but it took us until I think about October to get that reconstructed so that the conductor cut operation of the OMS would in fact work." 

After the fix, there was still an approval process, and the system 
wasn't ready for use until December 28, almost a whole week into the ice storm, which began on December 22.

On December 28, the utility says the system showed inaccurate information about who had power and who did not, which forced the company to "drop" all the outages in the system. The utility says that's why when some customers called back to check on restoration times, the system didn't have a record of their outage.

"This caused confusion and anger among customers," the report said. "The BWL should have been more diligent in assuring this issue was resolved sooner."

But even if it had worked, BWL says it wouldn't have meant people got power any sooner: "While an operating OMS would have avoided much of the confusion regarding customer outages, it would not have reduced restoration times," the report says.

Read the full report here.



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