Improving Power Outage Response
At times it does seem like the release of science news is coordinated to align with other news items, such as the recent storm that started as Hurricane Sandy. As this news comes from Germany, and not the US, I suspect it is just a coincidence. Researchers at Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft have recently devised new software tools for responding to power outages, in an effort to better coordinate limited resources.
It is worth remembering that not only the public but the responders trying to restore power that suffer from blackouts. For example, outages can impact their ability to access fuel, so it is important to decide who should go where so the fuel spent traveling was not wasted. The complexity of the situation though can be so great that programs like Excel can reach their limit when dealing with rapidly changing data. This is why the researchers have developed a new platform to better deal with the information so the efforts of multiple teams can be well coordinated. Part of how the software does this is with role-based checklists that guides not only one's actions but also who needs to be coordinated with at other locations.
Before this software, the responders would rely on paper checklists, which definitely work well in a blackout, but left out cross-organizational information. The researchers also added a glossary to the system, because different organizations, such as fire and police departments, may use different terminology.