A Google search for “storm damage, power poles” turns up roughly 1.8 million hits. That is a lot of news stories, white papers, and casual mentions of power poles being damaged due to inclement weather. Tally it up, and to fix those broken, downed or otherwise impaired poles takes a whole lot of truck rolls.
Truck rolls are expensive. The NARUC (National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners) estimates for purposes of discussion that each truck rolls costs a utility upwards of $275, and that figure does not take into consideration the cost of parts.1
To get a sense of how quickly that adds up, consider just one major weather event in 2012: hurricane Sandy. About 8.1M homes lost electric power during the storm, affecting people in 17 states, as far west as Michigan. Roughly 57,000 utility workers from 30 states and Canada converged upon New York to assist Consolidated Edison in returning power just to the Big Apple.2 That is, inarguably, a massive amount of manpower, response, money and time on the clock (for an admittedly massive weather event), but smaller events of this kind happen every week in the U.S. What you should know: At least a portion of the truck rolls needed to repair damaged poles could be avoided with preventative maintenance.
On-site utility pole inspection can do a lot to head potential problems off at the pass. Accurate records of attaching companies ensures utility poles are not overloaded by excess attachments—bootleg and legal. Visual pole inspections can pinpoint potential NESC violations, saving you money and ensuring the safety of your utility workers and the public. The recording of GPS coordinates, with the added benefit of a joint use management system, can help you keep a close eye on your utility poles and the equipment hanging on them. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, strength and rot testing can identify poles that need help before wind, rain, or other weather has a chance to damage them. Neglected, unhealthy poles can cause outages—forcing you to mobilize resources when nature calls, instead of on a planned inspection schedule.
The Takeaway: Send pole inspectors out to take stock of pole health and adherence to NESC safety guidelines and then fix what needs mending before the next strong gust of wind or downpour, keeping your workers safer and potentially preventing expensive middle-of-the-storm truck rolls.