FirstEnergy Corp. has deployed an app that allows utility personnel to report avian issues in real time, streamlining the process to protect nesting birds and enhance electric service reliability. The app arms field workers with the ability to submit photos and answer key questions using a drop-down menu to report the locations of bird nests or other bird-related issues along the company's power lines, all from their mobile devices.
Protecting birds is nothing new to FirstEnergy. Over the past two years, the company has made great strides enhancing its avian protection efforts, including the implementation of drones to complete bird nest inspections and donation of funds and materials to install nesting platforms in areas where birds nest on electrical equipment. These ongoing efforts continue to help reduce power outages caused by nesting birds.
"Efficiently identifying and responding to bird activity along our power lines is critical to preventing service disruptions and protecting wildlife," said Amy Ruszala, an advanced scientist and in-house avian expert at FirstEnergy. "This new, all-in-one app saves our employees the time of having to return to the office to complete and submit paperwork and enables them to report issues within a few clicks from their phones."
The app – which was designed exclusively for FirstEnergy by an outside environmental firm – was recently rolled out by FirstEnergy's two electric companies with the highest level of bird activity, the Pennsylvania Power Company (Penn Power) and Jersey Central Power and Light (JCP&L). FirstEnergy plans to launch the app across its entire service area over the next year as more employees are trained to use it.
Disturbing or removing bird nests from electrical equipment and utility poles can be a complicated task due to environmental regulations. If a nest is situated on or near electrical equipment and poses a serious threat to the birds' safety and electric service reliability, FirstEnergy's environmental team works with state wildlife officials to develop a plan or course of action to remove or relocate the nests while protecting the birds. "Digital reporting through the app allows us to expedite the approval process and documents each case from start to finish so we can access the information for many years to come if needed," said Ruszala.