Dealing with Power Outages


Unfortunately, superstorm Sandy hit East of America and more than 60 people died during and after hurricane. Sadly, our city Bethlehem, PA was damaged too. We didn’t have power for more than 24 hours and cell phone operators did not properly function  on Tuesday. As a victim of Sandy, I can feel the pain of people and I hope everyone will get better soon.

 8.2 million homes remained powerless just after Sandy. [R] Although it is not a healthy comparison, Irene hit 8.4 million homes in 2011. So in terms of precaution there is possibly not much improvement. I heard from someone that power recovery is much faster than at Irene’s.

There are some ways to improve efficiency in fight against power outages;

  • In this paper, Rawls and Turnquist (2010) discusses about pre-positioning of emergency supplies to increase preparedness  Such a model can be applied for power recovery teams and their positioning.
  • Power distribution planning is completely a different research area. While planning locations, capacities and design, probability of natural disasters could be taken into consideration. In the paper “Power distribution planning: a review of models and issues” such research opportunities are discussed.
  • In this review paper, Perrier et al. discusses about various problem types in responsive electric distribution systems. For those interested, this one is a comprehensive study including restoration of service, sequencing operations, routing of repair vehicles and scheduling of repair crew and assignment of crew to the repair sites. Especially routing of repair vehicles sounds very fancy, as it affects average time of power recovery. In such studies, some repair sites must have bigger coefficient since they could be main stream.

Actually, there are many studies about power outages, and I am curious that whether these studies are considered by power providers or not. If they benefit from them, I wonder what is the impact of applying such models in real life? Do you know such an instance that power providers benefit from OR tools?

If you have any opinion or know any research about power related issues in emergency, please share with us.

Photo by Sheffield Tiger.

Sertalp Bilal Çay

PhD Candidate and Teaching Assistant in Industrial and Systems Engineering Department at Lehigh University. Researcher on Conic Optimization, Inventory Theory, Supply Chain Management and Simulation. Blog: