After the storm: How APS gets the lights back on

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By Jayson Chesler By Jayson Chesler
PHOENIX -- When monsoon storms roll in, the lights sometimes go out and thousands can instantly be left in the dark. In the round of storms this past weekend 23,000 APS customers lost power.
So, how do the lights get flipped back on?
Nearly 300 call center employees are the first line of defense against outages in the APS system. 
“We never know when that monsoon is going to hit and we need to be proactive to have associates ready to go, on call,” said Kelley Coats of APS customer care.
Many people incorrectly assume that APS can automatically detect power outages. In reality, it takes customer calls to find out where the lights are out. A high powered computer then looks at the call locations, compares them to the power grid and calculates the total number of houses in the dark.
“This room is essential to APS restoring power to our customers,” said Steven Gotfried, standing in the APS Distribution Operations Center.
The DOC is the nerve center of the APS power system. The room is filled with wall-sized monitors showing every power line, transformer, switch and breaker in the Valley. DOC employees are in charge of making sure crews in the field can find problem areas and work the lines without fear of electrocution.
“This is where we monitor the system and are able to dispatch our trouble men and linemen to areas so they can bring back power to the customer as reliably and safely as possible," Gotfried said.
A "trouble man" is dispatched to an outage area to identify exactly what went wrong. The trouble man relays information about how to fix the problem, telling the line crew precisely what equipment will be required in the field. The line crew loads a truck with the required equipment at any of several strategically placed storage facilities and heads out to get the lights back on.
“So there's not really any guessing," Gotfried said. "It's very strategic on making sure the right equipment gets to the right place."
Over the weekend APS said the 23,000 customers that lost power were restored in 15 to 20 hours.
To report an outage call 855-OUTAGES (855-688-2437) for any residential issues, 602-371-6767 for businesses in the Phoenix area and 800-253-9407 for businesses statewide.