Since College Station Utilities implemented its new outage hotline in March, our customers have given us many ideas to improve the system. As a result, we’ve continually made adjustments, including changes to the recording you hear when you dial-in an outage.
In recent outages, the hotline number and our Outage Management System have proven to be valuable tools, and the outage map has been especially useful in providing our customers with real-time information.
The storm on Oct. 13 was the most severe we’ve seen in a long time. From 3 a.m. to midnight, we received more than 2,000 calls. Unfortunately, almost half of those calls were not identified by the system because callers didn’t enter their account number, were calling from a phone the system couldn’t recognize, or went straight to leaving a message.
The system automatically grouped calls and predicted outage sizes and locations for the calls that went directly into the system. The other calls had to be handled manually, which took time away from tending to the outage and directing crews.
Under our old system — which had only 14 lines – we would have had a lot of busy signals and dropped calls. We certainly wouldn’t have responded as effectively as we did on Oct. 13. We are constantly striving to improve the system, and the key is to encourage you to use your account number when reporting an outage.
How the system works
When you call our outage number (855-528-4278), you are given three choices:
- Electric power outage (this is being changed to electric power outage or issue).
- Water/Wastewater problem.
- Other issues.
If you choose “1,” the system takes you to the “enter the account” stage. When our latest changes are implemented, it will take you to these prompts:
- Electric power outage or problem.
- An electrical emergency.
If you enter “2”, you’ll hear this message:
“If this an emergency issue affecting damage to property or public safety, please hang up immediately and call 9-1-1; otherwise, please leave your name, number and a message detailing the location and nature of the electric emergency and we will call you back as soon as a system operator becomes available. Thank you.”
When prompted, if you enter your account number, our system immediately locates your information, finds your location, and identifies the transformer and substation feed. As more affected customers call and enter their account number, the system predicts the location of the failed device, which enables us to quickly dispatch a crew to the trouble spot.
If you don’t have your account number, the system tries to identify your location by your telephone number, but that works only if the number is tied to your account. If the system can’t locate you, you are prompted to leave a message and we contact you directly to get your information. Naturally, this slows down our restoration process considerably.
Ultimately, identifying more customer locations make our predictions more accurate, and that means your power will be back on sooner.