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Hurricane Monitoring System Strategies for Remote Equipment Observation and Automated Alerts

hurricane monitoring

As hurricane season approaches, are we ever really prepared? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a 40% chance of a near-normal hurricane season in 2019 and a 30% chance of an above-normal season. Already, Louisiana has felt the effects.

The difficulties faced by companies with large geographic footprints and many remote unmanned sites are multiplied by the onslaught of hurricane season. Even relatively nearby operations become effectively "remote" when a heavy storm strikes. Also, hurricane damage can cover a broad swath of a company's territory, taking down not one but dozens of important remote equipment sites.

For telecom, utilities, railroads, and large industrial companies to plan and organize their response and recovery efforts in the short-term, they must develop and implement a robust hurricane monitoring system for remotely managing equipment and assets.

As we've learned over the course of increasingly more intense and frequent storms in past decades: while hurricanes may be over in a day or a week, their effects can linger for years. For telecom, utilities, railroads, and large industrial companies to plan and organize their response and recovery efforts in the short-term, they must develop and implement a robust hurricane monitoring system for remotely managing equipment and assets.

How Hurricane Monitoring Systems Inform Recovery

Hurricane monitoring systems for companies help inform recovery not by tracking the storm as it develops and approaches, but by providing a real-time map of equipment concerns and damage. This allows companies to keep a growing record of affected assets and damage to equipment sites. Information provided by equipment monitoring systems can tell company managers whether sites are slightly, moderately, or severely affected, or not at all.

Knowing this allows management to marshall their responses over the days, weeks, and months which follow landfall.

By comparing damage reports to system function maps, resources can be applied as needed at the most essential sites. If certain sites need to come back online immediately to restore function, these can be prioritized.

While this method is hardly new - go see what's broken, then plan to fix it - it does improve on earlier disaster mitigation strategies by reducing legwork and consequent costly delays. Without a system capable of monitoring unmanned sites remotely, companies would need to send trained employees to each site. This would include every site affected by the storm. And, it can be a very time-consuming process for several reasons.

Difficulties Involved in Planning Hurricane Recovery Efforts at Remote Sites

First, while companies employ many trained technicians, they don't usually employ enough to staff every site (and that would be wasteful even if it was possible). If each company site is potentially affected, then a small number of technicians must make a large number of diagnostic visits. That needs to happen before anyone can start planning to fix anything.

Even though the storm has blown over by the time this "recovery" stage arrives, the damage it causes is likely to linger, blocking roads with fallen trees or washing them entirely off the sides of hills. Remember, distance is measured in time: a site that's ten miles away is ten minutes away on the open highway. It's half a day or more away if that highway is impassable.

As downtime costs money, this is a problem which becomes relentlessly more expensive.

Also, local employees will likely have family and friends in the area who need help, and may not be able to fully devote themselves to their work immediately. Employees' homes may also have been affected. As a result, companies may face significant difficulty in even diagnosing the damage the storm does to their property. As downtime costs money, this is a problem which becomes relentlessly more expensive.

Remote Monitoring Tools Provide Valuable Hurricane Recovery Information

With a robust remote monitoring system in place before a hurricane strikes, this diagnostic phase can be shortened. Remote Terminal Units (RTUs) are monitoring tools designed to report on conditions in unmanned locations. On sunny days, RTUs track a range of inputs customized to equipment tolerances, including temperature, humidity, wind speed, vibration, inches of water on the floor, and even generator fuel levels and other info gleaned from local IoT connections.

When an input approaches a level dangerous to equipment, the RTU sends an alert to technicians. If there are more than ten sites (and RTUs) in a network, field data from RTUs are displayed by a central master station.

Then, company management can view a comprehensive, real-time map of remote site conditions across the network. This lets management know of issues to correct without the need to send diagnostic technicians.

When the ocean is in an uproar, RTUs keep reporting all the same information. Inputs on humidity, wind speed, and water levels become increasingly important. They are primary indicators of storm intensity and damage potential.

Using RTUs to Inform Recovery Strategy

By collecting information from RTUs as a storm moves (or sits) over a company's geographic footprint, management will have an up-to-the-minute map of which sites are the most affected by the storm. When the storm dies down eventually, and it's safe to go back to work, then local technicians can be dispatched intelligently to assess the worst damage and start repairing what they can.

Local resources are likely to be overwhelmed by the scale of the damage a hurricane can cause. While the storm is progressing and in the immediate aftermath, company managers can be drawing up resource orders for employees and emergency contractors hired from other regions.

The real-time information provided by RTUs can help itemize damage early, helping management order the right amount of private (and sometimes national) resources to effectively and quickly respond to a crisis. Trucks can be rolling before the rain stops falling.

Telecom, utility, railroad, and industrial companies with large physical footprints do well by having RTUs at their unmanned sites even when the weather is fine. But when a disaster strikes, these already-useful hurricane monitoring system tools become extremely valuable. Remote monitoring provides real-time information about storm conditions where workers can't go. This allows company managers to get their networks or plants back up and running as soon as possible when the skies clear up, helping their customers return to normalcy.

DPS Telecom's remote monitoring solutions have helped companies plan disaster recovery efforts numerous times in the past decades. Our solutions are effective for normal operations and emergent circumstances. To learn more, get a quote today!

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