Utilizing Technology to Improve Natural Disaster Restoration Efforts

Utilizing Technology to Improve Natural Disaster Restoration Efforts

By Brian Sprinkle, Technical Applications Supervisor, CN Utility Consulting



Natural disasters like wildfires are a natural part of many ecosystems. For those who live and work within areas susceptible to fire, the destruction can come quickly and be catastrophic. Utility infrastructure is not immune to fires, and utilities can become overwhelmed with the amount of damage caused by a fire. In an emergency situation, such as the California Valley Fire, a well-devised plan speeds up the restoration process and improves efficiency.

One of the biggest challenges during an emergency power restoration event is the accurate planning of work and the collection of data. Frequently, these events are characterized by haphazard work done with very little planning or documentation.


CN Utility Consulting used GE MapSight 300 to document damaged hardware and identify trees that required work after the Valley Fire. Normally these would be separate tasks, but the versatility of MapSight allows these tasks to be completed simultaneously. Using advanced GPS locating technology (sub-meter accuracy), customizable software, and a precision measuring device, CN Utility Consulting was able to create time-stamped, geo-referenced work inspections. Inspection plans captured a variety of information crucial for the restoration process. Some of the key information collected included: location, unique pole or tree identification number, tree quantity, tree species, diameter at breast height (DBH), prescription type, priority rating, and any necessary comments.


When the device interfaces with a computer, all data is exported as a PDF, CSV (Excel file), KMZ (Google Earth), and SHP (GIS) file. While the data is primarily used to support tree work and provide actionable work requests, there are some additional benefits as well. Infrastructure-related PDFs were delivered to overhead maintenance crews to support the reconstruction process. Tree-related PDFs were delivered to tree crews, and then signed and returned to the utility after the tree work was completed. PDF documents were also provided to the insurance company as documentation showing the damage to the infrastructure and utility forest. The raw data was quantified in the CSV file to estimate time and resources required to complete the tree work, as well as document the extent of the damage to the utility forest. The Google Earth KMZ file provided an interactive map that displayed all photos and collection data for the trees or poles in question. If the client chooses to do so, the SHP file, which is used to store the location, shape and attributes of geographic features, can be integrated into a utility’s GIS system as another layer to be toggled.

Wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other of natural disasters have a common denominator; they are destructive and cause catastrophic damage to our way of life. While we can’t prevent natural disasters from occurring, we can improve the restoration process. MapSight is a powerful tool that can be harnessed to improve restoration efforts and improve efficiency in the midst of chaos.

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