Which would you prefer, a single four-hour power outage that you knew about two days in advance – or four 30-minute surprise outages over a period of six months?
Entergy Arkansas is banking on a preference for planned outages, and the company plans on doing more of them in the future.
“Keeping the lights on is the essence of what we do," said Entergy Arkansas President and CEO Rick Riley. "We’re good at it, but there’s always room for improvement.”
Planned outages are an opportunity to identify a circuit that needs attention, and give it the attention it needs. In a planned outage, workers plot out and prep for a series of improvements on a given circuit and execute those improvements quickly, efficiently and safely while the line is de-energized.
It’s a trade-off: inconvenience customers for a few hours in exchange for providing linemen safer working conditions while upgrading equipment that eventually would fail and cause an outage anyway.
Safety is one key issue. “We train our linemen to work safely on energized circuits, and that is usually what we do. Our goal is to avoid service interruptions – planned or unplanned,” said Riley. “But, when significant work is called for, it makes sense to de-energize a circuit and do all the upgrades at once. This will be good for both our customers and our employees.”
When we plan an outage, a couple of days before the outage happens, we notify the customer that their service will be interrupted during certain hours. Usually this is done with an automated phone call. Sometimes, however, notification is delivered by way of a door hanger and even, now and then, a face-to-face visit from a company representative.
Helping with those face-to-face visits, three newly hired apprentice linemen are getting crash course in customer service in Little Rock. They’ve been assigned to go door-to-door in various Little Rock neighborhoods letting customers know of upcoming planned outages.
“Customers appreciate knowing we’re working on long-term reliability improvements,” said Riley. “Employees appreciate the opportunity to make a plan, do the work on a de-energized circuit, then enjoy the benefits of that work with fewer surprise outages later on, especially outages in the middle of the night. Of course, customers will appreciate fewer outages, too. Planned outages, done with sound strategy and execution, are good for everybody concerned.”
Communications Specialist II