Most of the time we can see them coming. Hurricanes, typhoons, snow or ice storms, bad weather usually give us a day to several days’ notice. But sometimes disasters hit without warning, in an instant. Caused by nature or manmade, these more instant disasters catch everyone off guard. Everyone except those that are prepared or those that can respond quickly.
For the prepared, experience helps but so do standard operating procedures. These have been tested in simulations to wring out what works and what doesn’t. There are organizations that provide response manuals and many books on how to respond to disasters, some are even geographically based on specific locations.
After many major disasters there is a debriefing of what happened, who did what, or didn’t, and why in an effort to get better the next time. This is a good practice for any type of event wherever you may be.
How it used to work
So how do you prepare for the unexpected disaster: a main is taken down, coolant leaks and equipment overheats or something as simple as a truck driving into a poll knocking out electricity to hundreds or thousands. Way back in the 1980’s, we relied on someone calling public safety or a central number to let us know something was amiss. An inspector was usually sent out to investigate and report back to the central office. Once identified crews were assembled and trucks rolled. This resulted in long downtimes and upset customers. So what can be done to shorten that cycle?
Over the last 20 years, sensors have been placed at strategic points on the network to identify when an unusual event was happening. This shortened response times considerably since we could see what part of the network was down almost immediately and see what effect it had on other areas, if any. Downtime was reduced and customers were happier. But wait, there’s more.
More sensors, more networks, more outages, more everything. Smart meters give more data faster to locate and are the easy part of a network. There are sensors on lines, equipment, facilities, tunnels, pipes, trucks and even people. With this overload of data how is anyone able to figure out what alarms are important versus just background noise? It takes a small army of technicians to determine which ones should be acted on and when. What is needed is a way to manage all these sensors in an intelligent way and make best use of limited resources.
Integrating information technology and operations is key to making this work. By passing sensor data through high-speed systems that are built to look for anomalies or events that go beyond a set threshold, operators can respond more quickly to an event, sometimes preventing it from becoming a major event.
HANA has a built in event stream processor that allows monitoring of vast quantities of data looking for indications of things gone wrong. By setting up rules in the engine, you identify what data sets you are looking for or alerts to be set when certain thresholds are passed. Alarms can then be given early enough to potentially stop a disaster from happening or catching it before other damage occurs.
When integrated with geo-spatial capabilities, you now have a powerful tool to visualize your infrastructure and any event as it occurs, in real time. Put that in the hands of your staff in the field using the XS engine in HANA and now your staff can know what is going on, with more detail, instantly. Add the ability to notify staff or customers via text messages, or, better yet, scan social media to find those that are having problems, and you bring your capabilities to respond in real time into the 21st century.
Adding tools like Lumira for analytics and predictive capabilities then allows you to see when events might happen in advance. Certainly planning for natural disasters is made much easier as you can run scenarios against existing equipment and staffing levels to determine what will be needed should a particular event happen. That allows you to pre-order and pre-stage equipment and staff to better plan for events.
Real Time Situational Awareness
Using HANA as a platform to integrate network data and projecting downgraded or offline equipment in a central office or mobile device is possible today. Integration of more data than was possible just a few years ago gives today’s operators better insight to how their networks are running and how to respond in real time when something out of the ordinary happens. For more information on how this might work in your utility contact Maurizio Cattaneo, Global Head of Utilities Services Delivery or David Moyer, Global Lead for Energy & Natural Resources Service Portfolio Management.