KUBRA Storm Center 5 Outage Map Provides Crucial Insights During Dangerous Weather

May 3, 2018
In May 2018, Hearst Marketing Communications spoke with KUBRA President and CEO, Rick Watkin, to discuss the season of nor'easter storms and share how KUBRA leverages data to provide resources to connect utilities providers with its customers.
With the string of late-winter storms across much of North America, KUBRA’s proactive warning systems helped millions prepare and stay safe. Using a combination of the KUBRA Notifi system—alerts sent via email, voice, text and push notifications—and Storm Center outage maps, utilities providers were able to communicate effectively with consumers during periods of service disruptions. In March 2018 alone, outage maps were accessed over 27 million times. KUBRA President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Watkin discusses the season of nor’easter storms and shares how KUBRA leverages data to provide resources connecting utilities providers and their customers.
How did KUBRA become the leading provider of outage maps in North America? Rick Watkin: The KUBRA business model is the result of decades of tried-and-tested results, coupled with the readiness and ability to adapt to changing technologies and customer needs. Our mission began years ago when, as experts from within the utility space, we saw a critical need for better communications with customers. The outage map solution began with geographic information systems (GIS) consulting projects and progressed into developing our own custom mapping solutions for utility customer-facing communications. Everything we’ve developed has come from the belief about meeting customers where they are and creating solutions for their issues. KUBRA is the leading provider of outage maps because we offer utility companies the best way to reach customers whenever and wherever they prefer.
Who is the targeted audience of the outage map, and how do those different populations utilize the service? Watkin: The target audience is any utility provider that wants to offer the best user experience to its customers. Storm Center™ 5 was created for utilities of all sizes, with diverse users in mind. While residential customers may use the outage map to understand the impact of an outage at their location and plan accordingly, government officials often use the map to understand how an outage will impact their community. The media may use the map to help understand and report on a storm’s impact in their region. Whatever the use case, Storm Center™ 5 offers a seamless and easy to understand interface for users.
How has the Storm Center™ 5 outage map evolved since the first iteration over a decade ago? Watkin: Our Storm Center™ map presents power outage information in an interactive, map-based format that helps customers and other community stakeholders understand the impact of current outages and the expected restoration time. In early versions, each Storm Center™ map had to be built from the ground up for each client and offered only a limited amount of information. While this allowed us to custom-create the projects, deploying each new map took time and additional features—such as outage cause, crew status and zoom levels—had to be added over time. With Storm Center™ 5, we’ve used our experiences to determine and provide the features that utilities need. We can now deploy a map on a “shared” platform, which is much faster and more efficient to build. This platform also offers automatic deployment of new features, allowing clients to test, view and control releases of these updates with no additional costs.
Does KUBRA work with partners to keep Storm Center™ up-to-date and informative for your clients? Watkin: The KUBRA Storm Center solution is built on a Google Maps platform, offering the best customer experience and most familiar map platform. We also partner with Amazon Web Services to offer a solution that scales with each client's needs and WeatherBug® to offer the latest in weather radar and weather animations to clients. But KUBRA solutions are largely vendor agnostic. We can integrate with any outage management system a utility uses.
What sets the KUBRA Storm Center™ 5 map apart from competitors in the industry? Watkin: Our design, capabilities and usability set us apart. Additionally, our outage map is supported by a complete suite of customer solutions, so our clients can also take advantage of also our leading-edge billing and payment solutions and alerts and preference management services. KUBRA understands and cares about our utility clients and their customers, and I’m proud to say this is what motivates us.
How can clients configure the map for their needs? Watkin: One of Storm Center™’s strongest attributes is its flexibility to meet each utility’s specifications. The new map allows configuration for multiple labels and information types. It includes support for English and Spanish speakers and offers configurable brand colors and verbiage. The new map also includes a tool for showing ad hoc icons and areas on the map. Clients have the freedom to shape their Storm Center™ map to best fit their customer and stakeholder needs.
What types of alerts do you offer, and how are they customizable by the user? Watkin: Key communication channels during a storm include email, voice, text and push notifications. Our Notifi® product helps utilities send out alerts through all of these channels and allows customers to manage their own communication preferences. These can include proactive alerts from the utility about known outages and restorations, as well as two-way messaging that allows customers to report outages, request updates and get automated responses in near real time. The customer decides if, when and how they want to receive communications from their utility company.
This winter has been filled with power outage-inducing storms. What kind of feedback have you received from your clients about the value of the Storm Center™ system?
Watkin: In March 2018, four separate winter storms rocked the Northeast coast of the United States. The service areas of many KUBRA clients were greatly affected, and millions of utility customers lost power. Throughout the month, more than 17 million messages were sent through our Notifi® platform and the utilities’ Storm Center™ outage maps were viewed over 27 million times, supplying millions of customers with critical information. These clients depended on our solutions to reach customers when disaster struck—and our success in doing so strengthens our partnerships within the industry.
What’s next for KUBRA?
Watkin: KUBRA is proud to be a part of the Outage Data Initiative (ODI), which was started in 2014 in response to a challenge by the White House to develop ways to improve disaster response and recovery efforts. The publishing of this outage information is intended to be used by first responders, emergency operations and other public stakeholders to enhance decision making and awareness during times of crisis. The data can integrate seamlessly with the Storm Center™ map and represents the first aspect of ODI integration into our suite of customer experience solutions for utilities. We look forward to doing our part to increase transparency and efficiency of resources. The original article can be found at https://www.hearst.com/-/kubra-storm-center-5-outage-map-provides-crucial-insights-during-dangerous-weather.