Crews from three Exelon utilities teamed up to offer support during a time of need.
Since Exelon and Pepco Holdings completed their merger in March, forming the leading Mid-Atlantic electric and gas utility, the two companies and their combined six utilities have already begun sharing best practices and collaborating to enhance customer service, performance and reliability.
This new partnership was put to the test in early April, when wind storms with gusts in excess of 55 mph hit parts of the mid-Atlantic and northeastern U.S. Crews from PECO, Exelon’s utility in Pennsylvania, quickly went to work restoring power to affected customers and for the first time called upon two of its new Pepco Holdings sister utilities for help – Pepco and Delmarva Power.
While onsite in Berwyn, PA, Pepco and Delmarva Power crews assisted PECO with removing fallen branches, putting wires back up and replacing poles.
“It’s a way we demonstrate the value of the merger,” said Jeff Mittler, operations control center director for Pepco Holdings. When one or more of Exelon’s utilities isn’t affected by the same storm as another utility, available crews are able to rally and provide aid to restore customers’ power faster. “Mutual assistance is one of the important commitments we’ve made to our regions.”
Mittler said the inaugural mutual assistance effort saw the crews working harmoniously with shared practices to better assist customers in need of power. In these cases, the utility sending help either restore power to their customers first or keep crews in their districts to deal with outages if they arise.
Delmarva Power and Pepco crews embrace the lock-out/tag-out safety practices.
Workers from all three utilities used one of the common lock-out/tag-out procedures being implemented by Exelon’s merger integration team to allow the company’s six utilities to safely share resources.
“We need one unilateral system to go by,” said Frank White, distribution supervisor with Pepco who was onsite restoring power in Berwyn. “It’s going to benefit everybody in cases when PECO comes to assist Pepco or if we go to assist PECO. The system must be the same for a smooth transition, and this is an early example of those unified systems.”
White said the utilities’ partnership and sharing of best practices will benefit customers, especially in restoring power outages quickly and safely. When customers lose power, they’ll have the combined efforts and resources of Exelon and Pepco Holdings to help restore it, he said.
“We now have a broader base of resources to help with restoring customers’ power,” he said. “It’s really all about the customer.”
The specific safety practice utilized by both PECO and Pepco crews in Berwyn was the Workers Lock Out Tag (WLOT). While restoring power, utility workers use WLOTs to mark open fuses in case another crew comes along. To place tags, a worker fills out the location, the type of device, who placed it, the date and a log number, which matches the workers’ alteration log.
WLOTs are essential to safety because the tags indicate how workers are protected from an energized source and prevent injury due to a flash burn or electrical contact, White said. When crews are dispatched to the same area, everyone must have a common understanding of these important tags.
“This example of mutual assistance was also successful in implementing a safety program so soon after the merger,” Mittler said.
Aside from some differences in terminology and symbols, the way Exelon and Pepco Holdings utilities tag electrical wiring and fuses is basically the same. For example, transformers and fuses were denoted with unique symbols on each utility’s drawings and electrical system maps.
That small difference was easily bridged when White and his workers studied a 14-page PECO presentation outlining new vocabulary and safety standards. While in the field in Berwyn, Pepco crews asked questions, and PECO workers had answers.
“Communication had to take place between PECO and Pepco crews,” White said. “Tagging is something we do every day – we just need to learn the new terminology and make sure everyone understands it.”
By effectively collaborating, the crews restored power faster for PECO customers and continued Exelon’s daily commitment to providing safe and reliable power to custome