Ameren Illinois has some new tools to utilize in emergencies.
The utility gave the media a sneak peek Thursday into the technology its using to prepare for storms and respond to outages.
One of the new tools is a drone, which Ameren has had for just a few weeks. Electrical operations supervisor Jeff Buckner says the drone is flown into difficult to reach locations to find out what type of outage is occurring, before deploying manpower.
"You're having live footage and you can take pictures or video and you can relay it back to the men that are going to go out there and make the repairs. It'll be a faster response time on getting the power back to customers."
Another newer piece of equipment is a vapor extraction unit. Gas utility foreman Brad Gamble says it allows Ameren to more quickly extract the vapor from an underground gas leak.
"Sometimes if there's a building or a structure nearby, it can migrate into that building, therefore we could have a very serious situation on hand. So, with this unit here, this allows that situation not to happen."
Gamble says the old system only allowed the utility crew to drill one hole, while this one can drill up to 15 small holes at the same time, extracting the gas much faster.
Ameren says it can deploy its mobile storm trailer in a location before a storm hits. Supply chain operations superintendent Larry Bevington says multiple crews can work out of the trailer on the site of an outage.
"We can put up 100 poles with this trailer and put in 400 services. We carry 10,000 different splices on this and various different types of wire. If need be, we can bring in extra materials."
If a substation goes down, Substation supervisor Randy Harris says Ameren has the ability to bring in a mobile unit to an area to get hundreds or thousands of customers back online within a few hours.
"In the event of a storm, or an unplanned outage, or even a planned outage, we can move this mobile substation into or beside a permanent substation to pick up the load for the customers while we're doing the work on the permanent substation."
Ameren officials say both the storm trailer and the mobile substation have been around since the 1990's.
Ameren community relations officer Tina Gibbs went over items needed in a storm preparedness kit, which includes familiar items like a weather radio, non-perishable food and a first aid kit.
But, Gibbs says Ameren learned from its customers during the 2009 derecho that having cash on hand is important because banks could also be without power.
"I know it's kind of hard sometimes to put a little stash of cash somewhere that you have an opportunity to get to within the home in case you're faced with that kind of situation. But, it's something to keep in mind that might be something that you face when there is no electricity."
Gibbs says the kit should have enough items for the family to go up to 72 hours without power.
She says it's critical each family have a plan and that all family members know where the emergency kit is located.