Indiana & Michigan Power gets post-storm communication right

Photo of crews replacing utility poles
I&M crews replace several poles broken by the Nov. 17 severe thunderstorm. (Jay Farlow photo)

I’m really impressed with the communications staff at Indiana and Michigan Power, the AEP branch that sells electricity in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where I live. Here’s why:

After the severe thunderstorms and tornadoes of Nov. 17 rolled through, thousands of I&M customers were without power, including our neighborhood. We live half a mile north of a stretch of road where the wind below down at least seven utility poles in a row.

I&M very effectively used its web site to provide regular updates on the situation. There, I could see estimates of when power would be restored in various locations, or if such estimates were not yet available, estimates of when the estimates would be available! The Web page also provided an explanation of the seriousness of the problem (e.g. the number of utility poles blown down) and information about the utility’s response, including the number of staff members and contractors who were working on service restoration.

I&M published on the same page the date and time of the current update, and the date and time to expect a new update. They updated the page frequently, even outside of business hours.

For me, however, the icing on the cake is this text, which appeared on the page today:

Additional Information
We will be flying Transmission lines in central & western Indiana to inspect the lines for vegetation resulting from the storm. I&M customers may see the helicopter in the Muncie and Fort Wayne areas. Tail Number N105JD Black with Grey Stripes in color.

Look at that! There’s no need for I&M customers who read that Web page to worry when the inspection helicopter flies by. Readers know exactly what to expect, right down to the helicopter’s tail number!

Any company, agency or organization that’s involved in any kind of public service and/or emergency response would do well to pay attention to how effectively I&M communicates information about major power outages. Clearly, I&M understands the value of keeping the public as informed as possible on a very regular basis.