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How a Large Electric Utility Streamlined Its Emergency Management Processes with WebEOC

A multi-state electric and gas utility, one of the largest in the United States, operates in an area that is unusually prone to natural disasters. However, its use of general-purpose software and old-fashioned whiteboards in managing emergencies had been severely limiting its emergency response efforts—and slowing the process of getting the lights back on. By investing in Juvare’s WebEOC critical workflow platform, the utility found a more efficient and reliable way to ensure continued service delivery to its customers.

Providing Power in a Disaster-Prone Area

The Juvare client featured in this case study is an electric and gas utility company that operates power plants, wind farms, and solar farms in two states and provides power to nearly a million customers. Its location in one of America’s most disaster-prone regions means it must regularly contend with damage to power lines, poles, and other infrastructural assets caused by tornadoes, flooding, wildfires, winter storms, thunderstorms, and hailstorms.

A Patchwork Approach to Disaster Response

When natural disasters cause its customers to lose power, the utility’s emergency response managers and crews swing into action. Until recently, however, their efforts were hampered by the system they had inherited for coordinating recovery initiatives—a system that relied on general-purpose software tools such as Microsoft Office and whiteboards on the walls of the command center to collect information on impacts and track the progress of teams in the field.
“We had information spread out all over the place,” recalls the utility’s emergency management director. “We had stuff on whiteboards, we had stuff in SharePoint sites and Excel books. Not everybody knew where those things were.”
The lack of a common operating picture frequently led to confusion and inefficiencies during the disaster response and recovery phases, further compounding business continuity disruptions.

Implementing WebEOC

Things began to change when the company learned about WebEOC, Juvare’s industry-leading critical workflow solution. WebEOC offers a collaborative and customizable platform where organizations involved in emergency preparedness and response can share information, manage resources, and coordinate activities in real time. Nearly 60 energy-focused clients spanning seven countries are part of the global WebEOC community, which also includes over 50 U.S. federal agencies and 600 emergency management departments.
After researching WebEOC and talking with Juvare about how the platform could meet its needs, the utility joined the long list of organizations that rely on WebEOC to facilitate communication and coordination between emergency management and enterprise resilience professionals during both day-to-day activities and crisis situations.

The Benefits of a Dedicated Emergency Management Platform

Implementing WebEOC has greatly strengthened the client’s emergency preparedness and response capabilities. “One of our main goals was to be able to get to a common platform where we could have a single source of truth,” says the EM director. “WebEOC gives us that. We’ve really seen the value in making sure that everybody working on our response had access to the information they needed to be successful in our recovery efforts.”
The utility has also been impressed with how intuitive WebEOC is to learn and use. “It’s been pretty smooth getting people up to speed on navigation and finding where things are,” says the EM director. “Using the application and getting people up and running has been pretty easy.”
With years of experience on the platform, the utility recently brought on additional support from Juvare’s Development Team to help customize WebEOC to address a variety of domain-specific use cases. Moving forward, the client will perform its own modifications by leveraging the knowledge and expertise its teams have gained through Juvare’s WebEOC Administrator learning path courses.

Improving Efficiency with WebEOC Workflows

At the core of the WebEOC platform are the data and process workflows—known as WebEOC Boards—that allow credentialed users to enter and view real-time information and coordinate initiatives through a range of device types.
Since implementation, the utility has been using a wide variety of WebEOC workflows, including some that were modified or created to address its unique operational requirements. The following are some of the WebEOC Boards that the company has found particularly useful in helping it deploy resources, manage recovery finances, and learn lessons for the future.
Support Services: The client uses this workflow to input and monitor resources such as line crews, damage assessors, and vegetation teams. It enables the company to track details such as vendor, personnel, equipment, resource needs, and current work location. The utility’s lodging team also uses the Board to manage the inventory of reserved hotel rooms, ensuring that everyone helping restore service delivery has a place to stay. “This Board has really helped us, especially our logistics side,” says the EM director.
Incident Action Plans: The utility leverages this workflow’s built-in planning capabilities to help implement ICS guidelines and create detailed incident action plans (IAPs). “A lot of the features and reports and things that are built in there fit naturally within the ICS process,” says the EM director. “We were able to use a lot of it out of the box.” The IAP Board offers different templates for different types of events, allowing the emergency management team to build on earlier versions when creating IAPs for the next operational period.
Requests and Tasks: This workflow compliments the Support Services Board with a variety of additional logistics-tracking features. “If we need to have dumpsters or light towers or different things deployed to different sites, we’ll track them through the Requests and Tasks Board,” explains the EM director.
Financial Rollup: This custom workflow was created for the utility by Juvare’s Development Team to capture cost estimates from the Support Services Board and the Requests and Tasks Board so critical financial data could be displayed and viewed in one location. “This Board provides a good high-level view for our leadership and financial teams to see where we are with our cost estimates,” says the EM director. “It’s been very helpful.” The team also uses the Financial Rollup Board to validate invoicing as it comes in after an event—a capability that recently allowed the company to catch an instance where a vendor billed them twice for the same work.
After-Action Review: Emergency response personnel at the company use this workflow to record any ideas they may have about how current procedures can be improved going forward. After a disaster response initiative has concluded, the EM leadership evaluates the suggestions that have been submitted and identify the best ones for future follow-up. “We’ve gotten some really good ideas out of that,” says the EM director.
Materials Delivery: Juvare designed this workflow specifically for the client based on an idea from a member of the utility’s logistics team. After responding to numerous phone calls from impatient field crews, the logistics specialist told the EM director, “Man, it’d be nice if we could have something like DoorDash where the guys in the field can see where the deliveries are.” Designed to provide that exact capability, the Materials Delivery Board leverages telemetric data from company vehicles as well as ArcGIS® APIs to pull in information on current locations, driver IDs, and cargos. “Now it’s all self-service,” says the EM director. “The members in the field that need to know where things are—instead of picking up the phone, they can log in to WebEOC and see where it’s at. It saves some interruptions for our team.”

A Leap Worth Taking

As the utility’s emergency management team continues to deepen its experience with WebEOC—and takes on the challenge of making its own modifications—it has developed exciting plans for the future. These include encouraging more field personnel to become comfortable with the platform, exploring additional use cases for WebEOC’s mobile capabilities, finding new applications for the Requests and Tasks Board, and increasing collaboration with their home state’s emergency management department, another member of the WebEOC community.
What does the client’s EM director have to say to utility emergency managers who are still responding to disasters with a patchwork of old-school or nonspecialized tools?
With challenging weather being a regular part of life in the metropolitan area and several high-profile international events on the horizon, the city is satisfied with its decision to switch to WebEOC.
“If you’re hesitant about taking a step like this, you really need to go back and look at your processes and see what kind of value people are going to be able to get by having this common operating picture,” he suggests. “We’ve found value in making sure that everybody who was working on our response had access to the information they needed to be successful in our recovery efforts. If you look around your command center and you’ve got all the whiteboards and things, think about the folks in the field who can’t see those whiteboards and don’t have access to that information.”
Overall, the decision to invest in WebEOC has delivered significant value for the utility as well as its stakeholders and customers. “It’s a bit of leap to get out there,” the EM director concludes, “but it’s really worth it in the end.”

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