COMMAND CENTER - Wiregrass Electric Co-Op In HartfordRickey Stokes
Posted by: RStokes
Date: May 18 2017 9:44 PM
HARTFORD: On Wednesday of this week Wiregrass Electric Co-Op was the host to Dothan - Houston County Emergency Management Director Chir Judah and myself. The purpose of the visit was to show us the Command Center for Wiregrass Electric Co-op.
The corporate office for Wiregrass Electric Co-op is in Hartford Alabama. They have offices in Ashford and at the intersection of Brannon Stand Road and Fortner Street in Dothan - Houston County and a office in Samson Alabama.
Wiregrass Electric Co-Op serves about a 100 mile area footprint. Service areas include areas in Covington County, parts of Coffee and Dale County, parts of Houston County. The Wiregrass Electric Cooperative, which is member owned, has over 23,000 members.
They have a fantastic web site for their member/customers. That map shows outage details and other valuable information.
We had been told about the Command Center and Brad Kimbro was our host on Wednesday. As we arrived in their beautiful office complex, Brad introduced us to Jason Thrash - Director of Engineering and Operations.
Jason explained the system to us. The Cooperative spent over $ 3 million dollars a number of years ago upgrading their system and capabilities. While the upgrade was expensive it allowed the customers to have better than top notch service. It allowed Wiregrass Electric Cooperative Staff to know of outages and problems before the customer even called in. The system pops up green when outages occur. And that information is connected to the Customer Service Portal and when a customer calls in they already know of the outage.
The upgrade, smart meters, allows the Coperative Command Center to talk back and forth to the electrical lines and identify where the problems are and what the problems are. Sometimes those problems can be corrected through the command center before a crew even arrives on the scene.
The smart system allows safety precautions to be in place for the lineman crews and workers. And SAFETY for the Cooperative members and staff are the number one important issue to Wiregrass Electric Cooperative. And while being safe customer service is the next major component.
In the Command Center, Greg Bradley and Tammie Byrd have about 7 computers across their desks and 12 television monitors across the wall. They monitor the weather channels ( not just the weather channel but several weather information stations ), the entire 100 mile footprint is on the monitors, the location of all equipment is displayed on the monitors, and all of the electrical service lines and smart meters.
When someone's power is interrupted an audible alarm sounds notifying them someone's power has been interrupted. When the alarm sounds the staff immediately looks for why.
Through the lineman staff sending pictures of the downed lines and through google earth, the command center staff are able to have visual images of the downed lines and problems and get the necessary resources rolling to re establish downed lines.
In the upgrade Wiregrass Electric Cooperative established a pre-paid system. People can pre pay for their electrical service, example like buying minutes for your cell phone. Each day that cooperative member gets a text that displays how much power has been used for the past 24 hour cycle, how much is left on their prepaid account, and any important information they might need. At anytime the cooperative member can add money to their account via they smart phone, one of the 24 hour kiosk that are available or on line. If the power has been interrupted once the money is added the electricity is restored immediately. The prepay allows members to better manage their power comsumption and identify anything that might be causing an increase in their power.
Spoke to one customer Wednesday evening who uses the prepay. They told me their power usage costs them about $ 7.00 per day. When their account hits about $ 50.00 they add about $ 200.00 to the prepay. They love the app and service and allows them to better manage and be more conscious of the electrical usage.
Brad Kimbro told us the prepay has allowed the customers who are financially strapped to better manage their account and avoid paying a deposit. The prepay app has has cut the consumer use by 10 to 12%.
In addition that service has dramatically cut the bad debt ratio by over $465,000.00.
When bad weather is expected the Wiregrass Electric Cooperative Command Center is fully staffed and operated to stay on top of the potential power threats to the cooperative members. The majority of the service lines are above ground except in subdivisions. So this requires extensive management.
The customer service members can be proud of the proactive and innovative service the staff of Wiregrass Electric Cooperative gives. And the working enviornment of Wiregrass Electric Coopertive - everyone enjoys their jobs and working together. They are an example to all.
Thanks to Brad, Jason and staff for taking the time to show EMA Director Judah and myself the center.