Lindsay details storm restoration operations
by W. Brian Hale
Feb 21, 2013 | 2447 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Brian Lindsay, manager of Alabama Power’s GIS Department and Storm Restoration Team, speaks to the Rotary Club on recovery operations during large-scale disasters. Daily Mountain Eagle - W. Brian Hale
Brian Lindsay, manager of Alabama Power’s GIS Department and Storm Restoration Team, speaks to the Rotary Club on recovery operations during large-scale disasters. Daily Mountain Eagle - W. Brian Hale
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Brian Lindsay, manager of Alabama Power’s GIS Department and Storm Restoration Team, discussed how service recovery operations function during large-scale disasters at Tuesday’s Rotary Club meeting.

Lindsay, who has worked with Alabama Power for more than 34 years, has led teams into disaster areas to restore power to affected areas, including the April 27, 2011, tornadoes and, most recently, Superstorm Sandy in the Northeast.

According to Lindsay, storms are categorized into three distinct levels, which help restoration teams prepare and mobilized for impending power outages.

A level one storm occurs when inclement weather appears suddenly or with little advance warning, but are rarely serious in its level of intensity. At this level, Alabama Power’s control centers alone manage the storm, handling all dispatching and switching activities.

Level two storms often require crew headquarters and staging areas to be opened to deal with the amount of citizens who are without power. The staging area will typically facilitate crews who handle power outages in a 25-mile radius. Evaluator teams are sent into the field to asses the damage to the network in the areas that are affected to see where the restoration groups should concentrate the efforts in the early stages.

Mutual assistance agreements are frequently invoked for level three storms — where agencies from New Mexico to the Northeast arrive to help with restoring power. When long-term forecasts indicate that weather conditions could become hazardous, the agencies that are part of the mutual assistance agreement have conference calls to discuss mobilization plans in the areas that will be affected. As the time for the storms draw closer, the plans are refined and carried out based upon the need for additional teams. The control centers turn operations over to remote command centers to concentrate the available resources more effectively — allowing field teams to restore quicker before moving on to the next area in need. In these cases, hundreds of miles of citizens deprived of power are common. The April 27 tornadoes were considered to be a level three storm.

The staging areas that are used in level two and three storms are a combination of headquarters and barracks for the crews tending to the power restoration. With the capacity to coordinate the restoration efforts and dispatch teams to affected areas, the staging areas also contain sleeper and showering trailers, as well as food tents — ensuring the work crews’ needs are met when they return from the field and before they go back on duty.

Lindsay oversaw the operation of the staging area on Airport Road in the wake of the April 27 tornadoes, where more than 800 crew members from across the country were housed and dispatched.

“Outside of the United States Military, I don’t believe there is an organization which can mobilize and take better care of its crews in a time of need than we can,” Lindsay said. “We suffered a massive loss to our infrastructure that required a large contingent of people to get the power grids back on-line and restored. Those people were very well taken care of — from a place to rest to having something to eat. When crews are attended to, jobs get done quicker and people have their lights back on. Considering we had more than 650,000 customers without power and damage to our infrastructure on a scale that we had never seen, for most of our customers to have electricity again within a week is a testament on how smoothly everything ran. A lot of key members of our team contributed to the success of the overall operation and when you have that type of cohesion, quality work gets done.”