Case Study: Bermuda Electric Light Company, Hurricane Preparedness

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The islands of Bermuda are located at the top of the North Atlantic ís tropical cyclone basin. From June through November, tropical storms can grow into hurricanes that threaten the islands. Geologists have found 1,000-year-old evidence of hurricanes in the region, and activity has been recorded for the past 100 years. Even though satellite imagery, advanced weather science, and the Internet are available to modern Bermuda , Mother Nature still reigns as queen.

Bermuda Electric Light Company Limited (BELCO) is Bermudaís sole supplier of electricity, operating a generating plant and transmission and distribution systems throughout the Islands .  Their Mission is to meet the energy requirements of the people and businesses of Bermuda economically, safely and reliably.  BELCO serves approximately 32,000 customers.

BELCO is a long time user of ESRI ArcGIS software and has also recently implemented the ArcFM Solution.  These solutions were chosen for several key reasons.  BELCO wanted to reduce the amount of redundant data entry by storing as much data in a single database repository as possible.  Second, the utility wanted to have a more accurate representation of their facilities including their secondary network, and finally there was a need to maintain the customer and facility data that resided in their outage management system (OMS). 

In 2003, hurricane Fabian hit Bermuda with sustained winds of 120 mph. The islandís weather station recorded wind gusts up to 164 mph before the wind gauge was blown apart. The hurricane battered the island for eight hours and cut power to 25,000 customers and approximately half of the 150 mainline circuits were lost. Following the ensuing three weeks it took for BELCO to completely restore power, the staff realized the benefits that GIS, CIS, and OMS could bring to their organization during the restoration efforts.

As a result of hurricane Fabian, BELCO contracted with OneGIS, Inc., an ESRI Business Partner to design and build a GIS based damage assessment tool which is now known as the Incident Survey Tool.  The Incident Survey Tool provides a solution for data maintenance, editing, and reporting that fits into the high-pressure business tasks that occur during and after a hurricane or other natural disaster as well as normal everyday occurrences. It is designed to allow the end users to collect and maintain damaged pole information which is then loaded into a single database environment where crews can be dispatched and assigned to repair the damage.  The tool will also ensure that all work is tracked until completion.  In addition, reports can be generated on damage to a particular circuit or specific damage types such as downed or leaning poles.  This is used to help management decide how best to mobilize the teams of people and to prioritize the work once the initial restoration activities have been completed.

In preparation for the 2006 hurricane season, which meteorologists are predicting to become the fiercest on record, BELCO is implementing the ArcFM Viewer Redline extension, which will allow the crews to make notes in the GIS at the same time they are collecting the pole damage information.  In addition, a refresher training course will be conducted in May in anticipation of storms that are sure to pass by the island this year.  

Fortunately, Bermuda weathered last yearís hurricane season without a major incident. BELCO hopes to eventually create a public access Web site where they will be able to provide the public with information about outages, restoration efforts, and more.