Text messaging software company TextPower, said Peninsula Light Co. is using TextPower SmartAlerts to communicate directly with utility members during extreme weather situations and power outages.
The Peninsula Light Co. system allows members to manage their accounts, make payments, report outages, and receive instant information about outages. Caller IDs are matched to accounts by the system, saving time and streamlining the process by tracking the address, meter number and identifying the supporting substation. The system is refreshed with updated information every day.
Members can report outages by phone or text once their account is are activated. During an outage the member’s phone number is stored so the utility knows who is calling or texting. It provides the location of the outage, helping crews to respond faster. Members text the word “out” and the system sends a message back to verify there is an outage at that location.
The program was rolled out about a year ago and currently supports close to 2,000 members. Peninsula Light Co. deploys the Milsoft outage reporting system, and also works with the Cooperative Response Center, an after-hours call and dispatch center. TextPower integrates with both platforms.
While the area has a generally mild climate, White explained they do experience major ice and windstorms every few years. The utility serves two peninsulas and the Fox, Heron and Raft Islands. The only source of transmission to the peninsulas is a phone line originally installed in 1924 — the longest span of transmission line at that time.
Previously the utility would have to bring in 12 to 16 members of the call center staff to answer the phones 24/7 until a storm was over. Regular dispatch was available during business hours Monday through Friday and the outage reporting system would simply be shut down after 4:30 pm.
Working with TextPower and Milsoft, Peninsula Light Co. developed a notification system that would text information to the support team’s smartphones, use Google Maps to identify locations, and be managed through MS Outlook. The utility wrote their own outbound communications protocol and after a day spent writing the code, the communications system was self-managed, freeing staff for other responsibilities.
Peninsula Light Co. is a member owned electric cooperative located in Gig Harbor, WA. Since 1925, the utility has been serving the Gig Harbor and Key Peninsulas, and Fox Island in Western Pierce County. PenLight is a “full requirements utility” of the Bonneville Power Administration. The utility has grown to be the second largest cooperative in the Northwest, serving over 31,000 meters with 977 miles of line and 112 square miles of service territory. The company also provides service to 3,230 water consumers.