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Appalachian Power aims to improve coordination among repair crews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Appalachian Power spokesman Phil Moye said last summer's derecho was the worst storm in the company's history.

But the strong winds that knocked down trees and power lines also has provided the company with valuable lessons for the future.

"When we have something like that to look back on, there are always opportunities for us to improve," Moye said.

He said the company is looking at how it can bring customers back online in a faster, more efficient way.

Appalachian Power is encouraging better coordination between transmission line crews -- the ones who work on the giant power lines that carry electricity from power plants to substations -- and workers focused on repairing distribution lines, which carry electricity from substations to homes and businesses.

Moye said even if distribution line crews have all their work completed, "if we didn't have the transmission line back in service, we still couldn't get power to the customers."

He said if the company realizes a transmission line might take several days to repair, it now will reroute distribution line workers to areas where they are needed immediately.

"The end result is, we want to gain efficiencies in managing workers who come in to help with restoration efforts, and ultimately getting people back in service more quickly," he said.

Moye said the company also is increasing the use of helicopter patrols, which are an effective way to identify downed lines in rural areas.

Appalachian Power also is trying to make its lines more resilient against smaller storms. That could mean widening rights-of-ways around power lines in some areas, adding devices to the lines that allow power to switch from one cable to another and trimming trees around the lines, Moye said.

Most outages affect small areas. In the event of larger, widespread outages, Moye said Appalachian Power is looking to "improve the scalability" of restoration efforts.

To put it simply, it's one thing to bring 100 linemen into an area. Hauling thousands of workers into an area is another task altogether.

Moye said the Appalachian Power is working with people outside the company to secure staging areas where crews can work and make arrangements for lodging. Last year, the company used university dorm rooms to house linemen.

"We're trying to have better arrangements in place," he said.

Appalachian Power also plans to increase its use of social media, on sites like Facebook and Twitter, to get out the word about restoration progress.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or zack.harold@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ZackHarold.

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