In September 2010, Columbus-based American Electric Power agreed to meet new standards for achieving shorter and fewer power outages in Ohio in the wake of lengthy outages stemming from the remnants of Hurricane Ike in 2008. To meet the new Ohio standards and improve outage response time in other states where the company operates, AEP is deploying strategies such as tree-trimming and more sophisticated meters as well as a newly purchased internet-based software system, made by ARCOS, Inc. The hosted system automatically locates and assembles utility repair crews after normal business hours.

“We’ve been studying how we can improve our service restoration for the past five years to improve reliability affecting CAIDI, or customer average interruption duration index,” said Jim Nowak, Emergency Restoration Planning Manager for AEP. “Conservatively speaking, we can achieve a five- to 10-minute reduction in CAIDI with the ARCOS System when calling out a four-person service crew for restoration work. When we have to call multiple people, multiple crews, the time savings will really add up.”

“When we benchmarked our system against our customers’ prior callout processes, we found ARCOS reduced outage interruption by a double-digit percentage,” said Mitchell McLeod, president and CEO of ARCOS, Inc.

According to Nowak, AEP will rely on ARCOS for callout primarily after business hours, although the system will also help AEP dispatchers track the status of crews during normal work hours to see who can take overtime in the event of an emergency.

Once implemented, if a transformer blows or a utility pole gets knocked out, AEP dispatchers across 11 states and seven operating units can engage the ARCOS System to initiate a callout for a crew to restore power. The system automatically takes into account the availability status and call out rules for every worker as it assembles a crew. Nowak says, each of AEP’s seven operating companies are implementing the system within their own timeframe, but expect to see the software operational by this summer.

Even in instances where a single crew member is being called out, says Nowak, the software will save AEP dispatchers time recording the result of calls. Documenting the result of each call is part of a complex set of workforce rules and union agreements dictating not only which workers can be called but in what order. The ARCOS System manages that automatically.