Love Watching Storms? We do too. Here’s How Consumers Energy Prepares for a Storm
When midsummer temperatures cool rapidly, winds pick up and the sky turns dark, Michiganders know that means a storm is on the way.
At the first sign of rough weather, our team goes into “storm mode,” to work around the clock preparing ahead of bad weather and preventing or fixing power outages as quickly and safely as possible. Today, we’re pulling back the curtain for a behind-the-scenes look at the steps we take during the three main stages of a storm: preplanning, response, and demobilization.
You can count on us to always be ready.
Step One: Pre-plan
We have a dedicated restoration team focused on monitoring and managing storms. Each morning, the team reviews weather models for the next 7 days. If bad weather is expected, they meet with professional meteorologists to determine if outages may be possible.
Even if it’s a weekend or holiday, a storm means our storm teams meet day and night to prepare.
- More communication: We provide our customers and local media stations with updates and tips on how to prepare for potential outages.
- Pre-staging: To get on the ground as quickly as possible, before severe storms, we move crews and storm trailers full of material to regions expected to bear the brunt of high wind gusts – the most common factor in outages. If outages are expected to exceed 100,000 customers, we will call on our Midwest partner energy companies to help.
- Proactive investments: We don’t wait for storms to make sure your electricity is reliable. Since 2020, we’ve invested about $1 billion annually to prevent outages, including statewide tree trimming and significant enhancements to equipment, infrastructure and technology. Our automatic transfer reclosers are some of the latest additions helping restore your power before you even know it’s out.
Step Two: Respond
Crews and resources work throughout the entire state, heading to cities with power issues. We do not stop working until every single outage has been resolved. Some of the steps that go into our response include:
- Mobilization: Our lineworkers are on the frontlines. Even on nights, weekends and holidays, they always answer the call to get the power back on. In fact, they live for it. We make sure to provide help and resources needed to get the job done. As soon as it’s safe to get to work, they work 16-hour shifts around the clock until every customer has power, stopping only for meals and required rest. And while lineworkers are the ones who put everything back together, they are not the only ones making it happen. Damage assessors, wire guards, field leaders and community liaisons are on the ground to ensure customers and employees remain safe throughout the event.
- Prioritization: In severe storms, it’s not always possible to get every outage handled at once. We start with critical customers like police and fire stations, hospitals and important public communications entities that provide necessary information like TV and radio stations. From there, we work on the largest outages affecting the most customers first, as well as customers with critical health risks from loss of power, moving down the list until every customer is back on.
- Safety First: Lineworkers are climbing the poles, using bucket trucks and working in all weather and traffic conditions. Maintaining their safety is our first priority, period. For example, we don’t use bucket trucks if winds are over 35 mph. Instead, we focus on securing downed wires, assessing damage and other restoration activities on the ground until the wind dies down.
- Communicating ETRs: Estimated Times of Restoration (ETRs) help customers plan during their outage window. However, they are just estimates. Often, our crews will discover more damage, which can cause this estimate to change. It also can be impacted by changing weather conditions, reprioritization due to safety risks, and environmental issues. All of these can change an ETR and we work to notify you as soon as we identify these impacts.
We’re always tweaking our modeling so we can make our ETRs as accurate as possible in the future. During an outage, customers can find their ETR on our Online Outage Center through our app.
Step Three: Demobilization
Once the storm has passed and every outage has been resolved, the first thing we do is thank our lineworkers, especially the crews that responded from out of state. We make sure they’re taken care of and prepared for a safe trip home.
We restock our storm trailers and send them back to their homebase. Then, our restoration team reviews the event response to see what went well and what we can improve on in the future.
Staying safe in summer storms
In storms, the safety of our customers and co-workers is prioritized above all else. We don’t clock out until every customer’s power is restored, but everyone gets to go home when the lights are back on.
The key to safely navigating summer storms is preparation. Consumers Energy customers can visit our online Outage Center to sign up for storm alerts, outage alerts and prepare with storm safety tips.
Click here to visit Consumers Energy’s online Outage Center and sign up for storm alerts.