CRC Outage Status Notification Service Complements Restoration Communication Efforts
CRC Outage Status Notification Service Complements Restoration Communication Efforts

In 2017, CRC completed integrating CRCLink® with its membership’ s outage management systems (OMS) via MultiSpeak® 4.1.6. This integration enables CRC to receive predicted outages to the meter, improve crew management, and confirm devices.

With this technology, CRC launched its new Outage Status Notification service to its membership. The new service, fully tested and ready for deployment with Milsoft and in early testing with other OMS providers, enables CRC to notify your consumers via text message that we are aware of their electric outage before they even call. Confirmation texts will also be sent when the power to the meter has been restored. 

What are Outage Status Notifications and how do they work?
At this time, Outage Status Notifications communicate power outages and power restoration to consumers who want to participate in the program. 
When an outage occurs, CRCLink is given a predicted device and all of the meters affected by that device. It then looks at which of those meters are “opted in” to receive text notifications. CRC then sends the following text message to those consumers who have opted in and who have not yet called the utility to report their outage:

“Our system shows an electric outage at [service address]. If this location has power, please call [utility’s outage number].”

If the outage continues to grow and affects more consumers, the system looks at all of the new meters out of power, which of them are opted in to receive text notifications, then looks at who has already been notified of the outage. The message above is then sent only to those consumers that are new to the outage, have not called the utility to report their outage, and have opted in to receive text communications. 
Once the outage is restored, everyone affected by the device who has opted in to receive notifications – whether they phoned in their outage or received a text message stating they are out of power – will receive the following message about the outage:

“Our system shows power is restored at [service address]. If not, please call [utility’s outage number] to report your outage.”

Opting in consumers
Should your organization choose to use this new service, you must decide the best option for permitting your consumers to opt in to the service. It is CRC’s position that all of your organization’s consumers for which CRC has cell phone numbers may be opted in automatically to receive text notifications, per the utility exemption provided under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. However, if you prefer, you can ask your consumers to opt in to the service by calling your organization or CRC, or via your website. 

If calling in to sign up for the service, the caller just needs to provide their name so the operator can locate their account and add his or her cell phone number. Your consumers can also opt in via your website, just needing a meter number, account number or location ID to do so. After entering their cell phone number, the user will be texted a verification code to complete the process. If desired, opting out of receiving text messages is just as easy. 

Marketing Outage Status Notification services to consumers 
In August 2017, CRC founding member Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative, an over 20,000-meter distribution cooperative located in Centuria, Wisconsin, launched thePolk Burnett Electric Cooperative Facebook Post regarding signing up for text notifications new service to its membership. The utility, which chose to opt in interested membership to the texting service by either calling the cooperative or via their website, has been busy promoting outage notifications since the program’s launch last summer, steadily increasing the number of users of the new texting service to nearly 700 
accounts today.

Joan O’Fallon, director of communications at Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative, lauds the texting feature as a means to improve overall service at the utility but the benefits are twofold. “Outage communication is a priority at our co-op because it impacts member satisfaction,” she explained. “It also improves internal operations because it keeps the phone calls to a minimum for our dispatchers and operations team so they can focus on restoration.”
O’Fallon has implemented a number of communication tools to encourage their membership to opt in to receive outage notifications, with Facebook posts during outages being one of the most successful in educating their consumers about the service.

“I post a link to enroll on Facebook every time we have an outage and boost for the geo-area affected,” O’Fallon said. “[The cost to boost the post is] usually $10 so it reaches more people in the affected area.”

O’Fallon also uses Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative’s Facebook posts to encourage their membership to visit their website for more information. “I’ve got a couple of standard outage alert graphics I use,” she added. “I always try to provide a link to our online outage map so members learn to check that as a 24/7 resource.” 

In addition to social media, other successful means Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative has used to communicate the new texting service include print newsletters, e-newsletters, lobby and break room display monitors, and their website ( The website cross promotes the new texting service, including a graphic with a link on their home page and an extremely helpful FAQ page that explains how the outage notifications service works. 

Communicating power restoration efforts
Although Outage Status Notifications won’t entirely change your organization’s outage communication process, it is a simple and desired tool by many of the consumers your organization serves. According to Touchstone Energy’s 2016-2017 National Survey on the Cooperative Difference, cooperative members were divided over what was the best method to communicate power restoration efforts. The survey revealed that younger members prefer electronic communications (text, email, social media) while older members and those with little access to technology still rely on a phone call.

Chart highlighting What is the Best Way to Communicate Power Restoration Efforts?

Clearly using technology to communicate power outages in addition to traditional communication efforts is necessary to reach as many of your consumers as possible. And, as technology advances, so will the service. Future updates to CRC’s texting technology will enable messages to consumers related to planned outages, tree trimming notices, bad weather announcements, disconnect notices, and billing information – more ways to successfully communicate to and meet the needs of your consumers.

Outage Status Notification services is just another tool in your organization’s communicator’s toolbox to satisfy your consumers. O’Fallon concurs, adding “it’s a valuable and timely service for members.”

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