BERLIN — If residents in Berlin notice flashing red lights during a storm, it’s not weird weather. It’s a series of 56 new fault indicators along the town’s power grid.
“They act like a warning device for us,” said Electric Utilities Director Time Lawrence.
During previous storms, Lawrence explained the electric department has sometimes had to spend hours tracking down the source of an outage.
“It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack,” he said.
Lawrence recalled a specific incident last summer when the source of a blackout on Main Street took several hours to locate using the less than ideal process of tracking a fault by sending out electricity from the power station.
“We had a heck of a time trying to determine where the problem occurred,” he admitted.
With the new fault indicators, however, Lawrence expects drastically reduced response times since everything will be split into quadrants which can be easily monitored, even in rough weather.
“They will help out a lot during storms,” he said.
The fault indicators, which will be grouped in clusters of three, repeatedly flash bright red when they detect an issue along their section of power lines. The lights have a roughly quarter-mile visibility range during the day, increasing to about a half-mile at night.
“It strobes a high-intensity light beacon,” said Lawrence.
Indicators have been spaced out evenly across the town’s three power circuits about every half-mile. But because Berlin’s second circuit, 220, is larger than the other two, indicators were borrowed from circuit 230 for the time being. Lawrence confirmed that he plans on approaching the Mayor and Council this month for approval of another six indicators, at a cost of $1,307 to cover any lapses along circuit 230. The total cost for the 56 already installed indicators was $11,545.
While the detectors will help the electric department quickly narrow down which stretch of line is under duress, Lawrence pointed out that someone still has to spot the blinking signal before work can start.
In order to assist the town, Lawrence asked that anytime a resident notices a blinking red light on a power line they immediately call his department during work hours or the police department during afterhours.
“Every little bit helps,” he said.
The Berlin Electric Utilities Department can be reached at 410-641-2770 or the Police Department at 410-641-1333.