Six years ago, National Grid added a feature to its website so customers could check online to see if the power was out in their neighborhood and get an estimate on how long it would stay out.
But for those without a computer working miles from home, it didn’t help much.
Now, those with mobile phones capable of accessing the Internet can take advantage of the same features and learn the status of power in their village or town.
The new National Grid mobile site, accessible from nationalgrid.com, provides outage maps, a means to report an outage and a way to check on the status of restoration, among other features, the utility announced Wednesday.
“We live in a real-time world, which means we need to provide real-time information,” National Grid NY president Ken Daly said in a news release. “When an outage occurs, customers may not have access to their desktop computers or landline phones, making cellphones and other mobile devices one of only a few ways they can stay informed about service restoration.”
The power outage maps on the mobile website are compatible with Microsoft Bing Maps. The website also provides direct mobile support for iPhones, iPads, and Android- and Windows-based phones, mostly smartphones that already make use of apps, or applications.
Improved communication with customers was among topics the state’s Public Service Commission sought in a report issued last summer that delved into the actions of New York utilities during 2011, when two tropical storms and an October blizzard hit the state. Tropical Storm Irene cut power to 1.1 million people statewide, and Tropical Storm Lee followed a week later to put 68,000 in the dark.
The agency’s report requested utilities and telecommunications companies, which are playing a greater role as technology advances, do more to provide information to customers.
National Grid was among only three of the state’s utilities recognized for making use of all five available forms of outreach: automated dialing, text messaging, email, Facebook and Twitter. National Grid spokesman Patrick Stella said advances in technology are making communication easier for the utility and for customers who, until six years ago, had to call the company to learn when power might be restored.
“It’s just evolved, communication has just evolved in the last six years,” he said.
A variety of notification options are already available from National Grid. Customers who sign up through the website can get a text alert announcing a major power outage, as well as email alerts.
The utility’s new effort adds to other available means of staying in touch. The state’s NY Alert system, at http://NY-Alert.gov, provides information by text and email on road closures and other emergencies.
The U.S. Geological Survey also provides a notification system that alerts residents with text messages and e-mail when rivers, creeks and streams they select approach flood stage. More info on that program can be found at http://water.usgs.gov/wateralert/.