Logo preload
close Logo

Strengthening electrical poles for future storms with Fulcrum

November 13, 2023

With the alarming increase in extreme weather events, electrical poles face an unprecedented challenge. Damaged poles can incapacitate a grid, leaving communities in darkness, cutting off communication, and stalling vital services. However, the solution is not costly-full scale replacement of the many poles that make up a grid. Instead, utilities are much better off reinforcing poles and implementing preventative measures. Fortunately, field data collection and inspection software can help utilities strengthen electrical poles, grids, and services against future storms.

Join us as we explore how Fulcrum helps to fortify and future-proof electrical poles against weather damage, showcased by the real-world example of one of our electrical utility contractor clients!

The challenge and costs of storms and outages

Often made of wood and prone to decay, poles are vulnerable when exposed to heavy wind, rain, or snow. Over time, they risk damage or snapping, and a single hurricane can compromise thousands of poles. Even one downed pole can cause an outage which, if prolonged, directly impacts communities, especially during severe weather conditions. Outages not only affect people’s immediate health and safety but jeopardizes emergency services and even basic communication. The cost of storm-damaged poles extends beyond repairs, affecting the wider economy and risking potential lawsuits, fines, and reputational damage.

Thinking longer-term, damaged electrical infrastructure poses environmental risks: leaking transformers can contaminate soil and water sources, while replacing wooden poles leaves a noticeable environmental footprint.

Trusses: A method for strengthening

The truss – a reinforcing high-strength steel framework that transfers load weight from cables and equipment away from weakened pole sections to the solid wood foundation below ground – was designed to confront these challenges. Restoring a pole’s structural integrity and stability, the truss increases resilience to weather events. With fewer poles requiring urgent attention after a storm, utilities can accelerate grid recovery. And with longer service life, fortified poles are a more cost-effective solution than replacement.

While fortifying the overall grid, truss reinforcement is no easy feat. From pole inspection to truss installation, team scheduling to SOPs, it requires meticulous planning, data collection, and analysis. That’s why Osmose – a market-leading provider of inspection, maintenance, and restoration services for utility infrastructure – has chosen to integrate Fulcrum into its daily operations. As an advanced field data collection platform, Fulcrum helps Osmose to plan and execute truss reinforcement on a massive scale, while still streamlining the process and ensuring timely interventions.

The role of field data collection

The first step towards strengthening electrical poles is the regular and precise assessment of their condition through field data collection at the pole sites. This involves evaluating the pole’s material, age, any signs of damage or wear, its lean angle, and other crucial metrics. Without this continuous monitoring, utilities can’t effectively determine which poles demand immediate attention. With climate change, having a proactive, data-driven approach is the difference between a brief power outage and a widespread blackout.

Choosing to install a truss starts by analyzing field data like decay patterns, wear levels, and potential weather stressors. This information guides strategic decisions about which poles and areas are more vulnerable and likely to need support. However, traditional field data collection methods – using paper, pens, and clipboards – buckle under the demands of a wide-scale reinforcement strategy, unable to keep pace with a utility’s need for real-time, accurate, and accessible data to ensure grid resilience.

How Fulcrum Fits In

Designed to enhance field data collection and inspection, Fulcrum helps organize and execute truss installation in a few key ways:

  • Better Data for Better Decisions. Field teams can gather, relay, integrate, and analyze geotagged data in real-time, enabling decision-makers to respond to pole integrity situations more quickly and effectively.
  • Automated Workflows. Automated inspection and maintenance workflows allow for systematic scheduling and dispatching of field personnel. From inspection to action, this streamlines the entire process, ensuring timely maintenance to mitigate the risks posed by extreme weather conditions.
  • Geotagging and Spatial Analysis. With geotagging, teams always know a pole’s precise location. When overlayed with data like a region’s weather patterns, this is invaluable spatial data for pole inspection and truss implementation.
  • Long-term Monitoring. Storing historical data, Fulcrum can track the health of a pole over time. With this, utilities can prioritize truss installation and pinpoint exactly when and where to do it.
  • Safety and Reliability. By facilitating regular, comprehensive inspections and making their data accessible and actionable, Fulcrum improves grid safety and reliability.
  • Collaborative Data Collection. Always connected and user-friendly, Fulcrum facilitates collaborative fieldwork across multiple stakeholders. This creates an accurate, holistic picture of grid health and ensures. Each pole gets the attention it requires.

High voltage utility wires - Strengthening Electrical Poles with Fulcrum

GeoForce: a real-world success story

GeoForce is an innovative provider of utility infrastructure services, including emergency storm response and pole inspection and reinforcement. Dealing with many assets spread across vast areas, GeoForce requires timely and accurate data to ensure pole longevity and safety. However, GeoForce’s data collection efforts were struggling. Their manual approach was time-consuming, error-prone, and sluggish, hampering their maintenance efforts and responses to weather events.

GeoForce turned to Fulcrum to streamline and improve its data collection. The benefits were immediately tangible, with improved productivity, operational efficiency, and data quality, all while reducing costs. Automated workflows meant that tasks that once took hours now took minutes. Field teams could now more quickly and accurately record pole conditions, all in real-time. Strengthening electrical poles became more efficient for GeoForce when it integrated value-added data like photographs and geotags to identify which poles needed reinforcement.

Fostering a proactive, data-driven approach to pole maintenance, Fulcrum helped GeoForce shore up their clients’ grids against extreme weather.

Fulcrum-fortified: data-driven grid defense

As storms intensify, tools like Fulcrum play a pivotal role in promoting a proactive, data-driven approach to pole maintenance.

Indispensable to organize and execute pole strengthening strategies, pairing Fulcrum with the strategic truss installation is a testament to how electrical infrastructures can be fortified. Fulcrum streamlines data collection and equips utilities with actionable insights that ensures service is reliably, cost-effectively, and safely maintained – no matter the weather.

Future-proof your grid with Fulcrum

Connect with a Fulcrum expert today to learn how you can enhance your grid’s resilience with our cutting-edge technology and ensure that when the next storm hits, your community remains lit, connected, and secure. Don’t wait for the next outage to realize the need for improvement. Schedule your free, no-obligation demo today!