Bracing for the storms

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Alabama Power press conference representing the company’s west Alabama division, was held at the operations facility was held on Tuesday at storm center located in Tuscaloosa.

The event included an “Alabama Power Centennial Celebration,” and a “Community Storm Preparedness Workshop,” which was presented by operations managers from the company’s west Alabama division.

“This is the centennial year for Alabama Power, 100 years of lighting the way,” Audrey Vaughn, west Alabama division area manager, said.

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“For 100 years, we have tried to electrify Alabama and make life better for it’s citizens.” Vaughn covers Tuscaloosa County, Pickens County, Hale County, Greene County, Sumter County, Marengo County, Bibb County and parts of Perry County.

Cory Sweeney is the operations manager for the southwest area division that is comprised of

Pickens, Marengo, Perry, Hale, and Greene Counties.

“Everyone needs to be prepared for the storm season. Particularly those with special needs,” Sweeney said.

Other operations managers for Alabama Power representing the divisions of West Alabama that attended the press conference include Greg Lake, Danny Glover, Greg Long and Steve Kirkham.

“We are the ones behind the scenes that keep the lights on,” Danny Glover said. Office managers servicing these divisions were also in attendance at the press conference on Tuesday.

“When we talk about West Alabama, we are talking about these 14 counties,” Vaughn said.

Alabama Power is preparing for the hurricane storm season by providing extensive technological and logistical support. “We have upgraded the number of trained personnel,” Danny Glover said. “We have also put together packaged material we call storm kits.” This technological support includes programs that can estimate weather predictions such as wind speeds, which can give estimates of damage before the storm.

“We have a tremendous storm history particularly in the last couple of years,” Vaughn said. “We want to work together to serve the public and to also let you know some of the things we have done to prepare for this year’s storm season.”

Outstanding service awards such as the EEI award have been granted to Alabama Power. The Edison Electric Institute Award, which is awarded once a year, is given to entity in the electrical power industry for their performance in service and leadership.

“Alabama Power serves about two thirds of the state of Alabama and that is particularly our service area,” Greg Long said.

“We have about 28,000 employees in Southern Company and Alabama has about 6,700 employees,” Long said.

“Within the western division operation, we are broken into three different operating areas,” Long said.

“We are in constant communication to help people in need.” There is the north region, the central region and the south region.

“This is how we get electricity out to the customers,” Long said. “These terms will help you understand how many customers we have out.”

The discussion began with the “source.”

“It all starts at the generating plant.

“We have significant ways of generating them,” Long said. He explained that electricity sources such as “Co-fire” units are used. “We have about seven of those what would be at the transmission level.”

After the generating plant, there are sub-stations. “Once it leaves the sub-station, we have a minimum of about two feeders,” Long said.

“It feeds electricity out into the community.

“So when you hear us say that ‘we have a feeder out,’ you can visualize the lines running out into a community are out.” Full sub-stations and transmission facilities can produce more power outages, according to the operations manager. Long also explained that electrical power at the “transformer level,” affects even fewer. From approximately one to five customers according to Long said. “We have a very aggressive inspection program. On average over an eight year period, we inspect on average about 43,000 poles a year in the western division,” Long said. “We are looking for poles that are not up to the criteria we expect. We have a process in place where we come behind and we change these polls out to get them up to specifications.”

“We work so hard daily just to produce, generate and deliver low-cost reliable energy to our customers,” Kirkham said. After hurricane Katrina in August of last year, approximately 636,891 customers were without power, and power was restored to customers nine days after the disaster. Also taking into account that “Alabama was at the center of rescue and evacuee efforts,” Kirkham said.