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January 7, 2016

Outage Communications Help Avista Respond to Historic Storm

On November 17, the Avista Utilities service territory experienced a severe thunderstorm with near hurricane-force winds that created the worst natural disaster in the company’s 126-year history. At the height of the storm, 180,000 customers lost power, nearly half of Avista’s electric customers. Avista crews and mutual assistance crews worked around the clock for over a week to restore power, completing restoration for all customers affected by the storm on November 27. During the outages, customers were continuously looking to Avista for real-time information and updates about the outages that impacted them.

At the end of October, Avista completed a project with iFactor to offer additional outage communications capabilities including a power outage map, an outage reporting and status tool, and proactive outage messaging by email and SMS text. These new tools were ready just in time to help Avista with communication during and after the historic storm.

Between November 17 and November 29, the Avista outage map had more than 837,500 visits, with an average of more than 83,000 visits per day. 61% of the visits to the map were from mobile phones and 9% were from tablets. Avista customers registered more than 13,000 contacts to receive outage alerts, and Avista’s alert system sent and received a total of more than 228,500 messages. 53% of the outage reports made during the storm event were made using the online reporting and status tool, and 1% of the total outage reports were made by text message.

In addition to customers, the media used the outage map as a reference. Fox 28 in Spokane added an embedded copy of the Avista outage map on its website, and the major daily newspaper The Spokesman-Review provided a link to the outage map in an article about restoration work.

KXLY storm coverage with Avista power outage map
ABC affiliate KXLY referenced the outage map in its video coverage of the storm.

Avista’s updated power outage map uses iFactor’s Storm Center 4, including the WeatherBug weather radar layer. The map also includes links for Avista customers to sign up for outage alerts, report an outage, check the status of an existing outage, or view more information about Avista’s outage communications.

Avista outage map - outage information

The outage reporting and status tool allows customers to enter a phone number or account number and the ZIP code associated with their Avista account to see the status of any reported outages at their location, or to report a new outage.

Avista Outage Reporting and Status tool

Avista customers can manage their contacts and preferences for text or email notifications using a Preference Management interface on the Avista website in the same section of the website as other “My Account” features. Customers can also register for alerts via SMS by texting the keyword “REG” to Avista’s short code, which is 284782.

Avista outage communications website

About Avista Utilities

Avista Utilities is involved in the production, transmission and distribution of energy. Avista provides energy services and electricity to 369,000 customers and natural gas to 329,000 customers in a service territory that covers 30,000 square miles in eastern Washington, northern Idaho and parts of southern and eastern Oregon, with a population of 1.6 million. Avista Utilities is an operating division of Avista Corp. (NYSE: AVA). For more information, please visit www.avistautilities.com.