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ComEd Details Improvements To Storm Response Process

ComEd Power Yard

A ComEd power yard. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (STMW) – One year after the high winds and snow from the blizzard of 2011 pummeled its service territory, Commonwealth Edison on Sunday announced a number of steps taken and investments made to enhance its storm response process.

The enhancements include the deployment of new communications and operations technology, enhanced processes and procedures during a storm, and additional field personnel.

The blizzard of 2011 was considered Chicago’s third heaviest on record and knocked 179,000 customers out of power, ComEd says. ComEd deployed more than 1,600 employees as part of a storm response team at that time. Ninety percent of customers were restored within 18 hours of losing power, ComEd says.

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“In the last twelve months, we’ve seen some of the most challenging and severe weather in ComEd’s history, and we made a commitment to all our customers that we would enhance our ability to respond to these extreme events,” Anne Pramaggiore, president and chief operating officer of ComEd, said at a press conference Sunday at the Oak Park Village Hall. Pramaggiore was joined by Oak Park Village President David Pope, a release from ComEd said.

Storm response improvements either planned or underway include, according to the release:

• Strengthening its customer service center’s call volume capacity. This will reduce the number of customers that experience difficulty getting through during an extended outage situation when call volume is at its highest, ComEd says. The enhancement will be in place by the end of the second quarter.

• A two-way text messaging capability that allows customers to text their outage to ComEd and enables ComEd to text restoration information back to customers.

• A mobile application to be launched in the second quarter for both Android and Apple iOS operating platforms which will provide outage reporting and outage status push notifications.

• An improved Estimated Time for Restoration (ETR) system across all communication platforms including ComEd’s website, call center, and voice recognition system.

• Strengthening its municipal outreach communications to work more effectively with local officials on several fronts — for example, identifying and prioritizing life safety facilities for restoration and providing timely information about local storm restoration progress.

Additionally, the utility says, it has increased the number of first responders by an additional 20 percent, increased the number of first line supervisors available for storm field support by an additional 20 percent, deployed new communications and operations technology to enhance field coordination and quicken storm restoration, expanded GPS deployment across its entire mobile dispatch fleet to strengthen coordination of resources, allowing more effective storm restoration for customers, and built a new, $1 million, state-of-the-art regional mobile command center(MOC).

The mobile command center, which can house 25 ComEd engineers, dispatchers and other key storm response team members, comes fully equipped with the latest communications, satellite and video conferencing technology. The MOC will be deployed to the worst hit areas in a storm. This, according to the release, will optimize restoration efforts, allowing ComEd to understand and respond to customer needs faster.