JPS staff to 'walk the line'

BY TAMEKA GORDON Assistant Business co-ordinator

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

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OFFICE staff at the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) are to be trained to "walk the lines" so they can help the next time a storm or hurricane hits theºZ island.

The first job after a storm is to drive or hike along power line routes looking for damaged equipment and downed poles, said Kelly Tomblin, president and chief executive officer of JPS.

But the company doesn't have enough crews to check all the lines, and needs them for more important jobs anyway, Tomblin told the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.

"With the predictions for more and more intense hurricanes, this (training) makes sense for us," she said. "We need to have people who are trained and ready to go."

Administrative personnel were sent out during Hurricane Sandy, but often they could only say when poles were leaning or down. Most could not identify damaged equipment that would need replacement.

The company had to replace 600 of its 150,000 poles, and expects to draw down US$7 million ($640 million) from its self-insurance fund, which currently has US$20 million.

Power had been restored to 99 per cent of its customers by Monday, with work continuing to get electricity to 2,000 customers in St Mary, St Ann and Portland.

The power company has learnt several lessons from Sandy, Tomblin said. "No one wants a hurricane but it gives you an opportunity to identify and strengthen your weak muscles."

Top of her list was the need for better computer systems for command and control, so that managers can get crews to where they are needed more efficiently.

The company also wants to improve its logistics, ensuring that poles, cables and other equipment are in the right places at the right times.

JPS plans to cut the number of contractors from 20 to a handful, while forging closer links with those who survive the cull.

"We will take three or four contractors whom work well over time and who we have trained over time to partner in longer agreements," Tomblin said. "Though we may have fewer contractors, we have people who are trained."

This would allow the contractors to plan further into the future and allow them to invest more in equipment and staff.

"Nothing about this sector is cheap, so if contractors know how many people they need to hire and make an investment in those staff members, then this will lead to the overall efficiency of the company," she said.




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