(Left) Nora Marrakchi and (right) Michael Parran, Consumers Energy’s Strategic Innovation managers, believe that Innovation gives us the opportunity to shape our future and position our company for success in serving our customers. Through a collaborative effort, they are able to leverage new technology and resources to better serve our current and future customers. In June 2015, they were able to debut an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to help monitor power lines, equipment and wind turbines. The project enabled us to provide better energy reliability for our customers while ensuring the safety of our employees and the communities we serve.
What does the Strategic Innovation department mean for our customers?
NM: Our goal isn’t to be the strategic innovation gurus at Consumers Energy, but to infuse the company with new skillsets and inspire others to bring forward the ideas that will propel us into the next 120 years. Our pilot projects are a result of unconventional thinking from many people internal and external to the company and working with them to move these opportunity ideas from a conceptual state to an operational one.
MP: We spend a lot of time thinking about the customer. It’s at the forefront of everything we do. We think about what our customers need and what our customers don’t know they need (yet). We learn from our projects in order to best serve our customers. We’re a small group, but as a team we punch above our weight when we collaborate with internal and external partners.
What does your typical day look like?
NM: We have multiple different projects at play in one given time that will be at different levels of maturity. Some are still in an ideation stage while other are already in play and being piloted. You know what your week is going to generally consist of, but not necessarily the hour-by-hour schedule due to the dynamic nature of our projects. It’s this flexibility to work differently that enables us to quickly change gears according to the needs of that day while still ensuring that all projects are continuously moving forward.
MP: Again, it changes with the variety of work we have going on. Our day can consist of meetings, brainstorming sessions and researching to keep up with what is currently going on in the industry. To be in this role you have to have flexibility to zoom in and out of ongoing projects.
A successful project for your team has been the pilot of an UAV for line inspection. What was the goal of the project?
NM: The UAV is one of the best examples of what our company can do in a very short period of time when the right team is assembled. We were able to take something from a kernel of an idea from the Hackathon into reality and we are proud to say we are the fourth utility in the United States to have permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to use UAVs for line inspections. The goal of the pilot is to determine the viability of using of UAVs to achieve cost saving benefits and improve reliability for our customers. It will also ensure greater safety for our employees.
MP: I agree, the launch of our UAV is a good example of what we are capable of accomplishing. Our team is able to leverage internal and external resources in order to see something through from concept to implementation.
What does “Count on Us” mean to you?
NM: It means we don’t accept what we did yesterday as being “good enough”. We must challenge ourselves individually, as departments, and a company to reconsider what we do and how we do it every day. If we accept current parameters, it will hurt us in the long run. Our customers want to know that we won’t just sit back and accept the “status quo”. We’re always trying to be proactive with our efforts and lead the pack when it comes to providing exceptional service to our customers.
MP: My first thoughts are about offering excellent quality of service and delivering reliable energy to our customers. However, the statement really is layered. We are not only thinking about our customers today, but the customers we may have in the future. We have to think about how we serve our different audiences. These audiences are anyone of our customers, regulators, Michigan as a whole or investors/shareholders.
What excites you about your job?
NM: I like to challenge the status quo in ways that positively push the company forward. We’re facilitating departments to think outside the box in attaining their goals by not only leveraging new technology, but the creative minds across the company. Balancing multiple concurrent and diverse projects is a positive challenge, but ultimately it all comes down to the internal and external relationships that make it most rewarding.
MP: The ability to make a positive impact is what excites me. Beyond that, it’s the diversity of work. I am attracted to the energy sector because it is one of the few fields where so many issues (environmental, political, technological, etc.) converge. Being able to make a difference in an industry that impacts so many issues is what keeps me going.
To learn more about how Consumers Energy is serving our customers, visit https://www.consumersenergy.comRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
In order to provide better energy education to students in the communities we serve, we must go right to the source – our educators. On Tuesday, June 25, 2015, 21 fourth to eighth grade teachers from the Great Lakes Bay area attended our first ‘Energy in Education’ free professional development day at our Karn Weadock Plant in Essexville, MI.
Teachers were able to engage with Consumers Energy experts to learn how electricity is made with coal, wind and water. Participants even had the chance to generate their own electricity using a hand crank or bike generator. The hands-on experience was designed to show teachers how electricity is generated and the energy requirements for different types of bulbs. Along with their experiences at the Karn Weadock Plant, teachers received information on how to download our FREE EmPOWERed Kids app and resources available on our website to utilize in their classrooms.
Did you know?
The earliest record of electricity was made by Thales. He unknowingly discovered static electricity about 600 BC when rubbing amber (a material created by fossilized tree sap) against silk.
EmPOWERed Kids is officially endorsed by the Michigan Department of Education. Request a free presentation for your classroom.
For more information on future ‘Energy in Education’ Days, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Position: Meter Reader/ Volunteer Wire Guard
Service Length: 1.5 years
What is a wire guard?
A wire guard is the first responder to a downed wire. When a customer calls to report a downed wire in their neighborhood or backyard, we get dispatched. Wire guards are the first people on the scene to secure the wire.
What does it mean to secure the wire?
Securing the wire means we would locate the wire and assess potential hazards near the wire. We see if there are things, such as trees or fences, which can be energized from the wire touching it.
Then we set up a 20 foot parameter around the wire to secure. To secure it means that someone is there to make sure the wire is safe and secure until a lineman comes to reconnect the wire.
What does your average day/night of wire guarding look like?
To be honest, it’s kind of hard to tell what an average day will look like. You’ll never know if you’ll be outside in the country or maybe in the city. You just never know where you’re going to go so it’s all about coming prepared for anything. You never know where the wire is or what the hazards may be.
What motivates you to volunteer for this position?
The thing that motivates me the most is keeping not only my family safe, but our customers safe. I just think that if my mom or my wife called about a downed wire, I would want someone on the job to make sure the wire is secure because their safety is my number one concern. My family is all customers of Consumers Energy so I want to make sure they are safe.
What inspired you to get trained to be a volunteer wire guard in addition to your job?
Again, I volunteered to get trained as a wire guard in addition to my job because of the safety of our customers. We want to prevent all hazards.
What do you enjoy most about being a volunteer wire guard?
Aside from the safety of our customers, I enjoy meeting them. I’m a “people person” and love customer interaction. You never know what you’re going to experience or what you’re going to run into. The favorite question I always get asked is “when is my power going to be on.” I love that. I enjoy easing their fears and answering a lot of the questions they may have about what is going on.
What does reliability mean to you?
Reliability means just being there. Just simply being there when you call and being there until the job is done.
What does “Count on Us” mean to you?
When you call, we will answer. Whatever we can do as a company, count on us to be there until the job is done.
What makes our company unique?
That’s a good question. I think our company is the greatest. We have some of the best customers in the world and I think we provide an excellent service to all of our customers. I think we stand above the competition in providing the service to our customers. Just being there and being reliable makes us unique.
Describe yourself in three words.
I don’t think three words can even describe me honestly.
Tell us something on your bucket list.
I think I want to go skydiving. I think that would be pretty amazing. Am I going to do it? I don’t know yet.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Be yourself. Be true to yourself and don’t try to be anyone else to fit or blend in. Be who you were created to be. Because the best you is the greatest you you will ever have.
What is your best joke?
I don’t know. I’m not a person who tells jokes. I’m more of a in-the-moment kind of guy with my punch lines.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off on Count On Us: Powered by William Hicks II & Consumers Energy )
Each year, hundreds of accidents are caused by careless digging. From planting a tree to building a deck, many projects can result in damage to utility lines, service interruptions, property damage, financial penalties and personal injuries. Prevent damage to yourself or your neighborhood by making the call to 811. It’s the law.
Why Call 811 Before Digging?
April is Safe Digging Month, a time to reflect on safe digging practices for homes and businesses. Calling 811 will connect diggers to MISS DIG, the construction safety and utility damage prevention center for Michigan. MISS DIG prevents damage to Michigan neighborhoods in three steps:
- MISS DIG receives a request.
- Depending on the service request location, MISS DIG contacts local utility companies that provide natural gas, electricity, sewer, water, cable fiber optic and others who have lines buried underground.
- Within three business days, the local utilities will send representatives to mark the digging location with paint or colored flags.
Dig a hole– win prizes! Learn more.
5 Safe Digging Tips for Homeowners
Below are safety tips every homeowner should know before beginning a spring project:
- Call 811/MISS DIG three working days before you plan to dig.
- Make sure all utility lines are marked. Contact 811/MISS DIG to confirm.
- Respect the marks made by utility locators when using shovels or power equipment. Avoid using mechanized digging equipment near marks.
- Choose another location to begin your project if the original site is near utility lines.
- If you hired a contractor, confirm a call to 811/MISS DIG was made before they begin work on your property.
Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off on What Happens When You Call 811? Celebrate Safe Digging Month in Michigan )
Nothing cures the winter blues like a vacation. Whether you’re traveling during spring break or preparing for a summer trip, making safety top priority will ensure a fun, memorable vacation for the entire family.
Six Safety Tips for a Carefree Vacation
No one wants to spend their vacation worrying. Follow these safety tips to ensure a relaxing trip:
- Keep Your Plans Off Social Media- Don’t post your vacation plans on social media. Keeping plans private may prevent a thief from knowing you’re away.
- Place a Hold on Your Mail- Letting mail pile up could be an easy way to inform criminals you aren’t home. Place a hold on your mail at holdmail.usps.com.
- Make a Copy of Important Identification- Be sure to make copies of photo IDs and passports. Keep them in a safe place in case you need them. This is especially important if you plan to travel out of the country.
- Check Your Health Insurance- Not all companies cover travel abroad. Check with your health insurance provider to see if your family is covered before leaving the country.
- Bring Sunscreen- The closer you travel to the equator, the better the chance for a sunburn. Bring and apply sunscreen frequently to prevent burns, premature aging, a change in skin texture, and even skin cancer.
- Be Alert Near Water- Know your surroundings when boating or swimming, follow all beach rules and watch for hazards. By being alert, you could prevent injury or death to yourself or others.
Do you have a safe traveling tip to share? Comment below.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off on Going on Vacation? Prepare For Your Trip With These Safety Tips in Mind )
During power outages, anything can happen. Consumers Energy wants to make sure customers and employees are as safe as possible no matter the weather or circumstance. From life support needs to restoration updates, you can find safety tips and videos at www.ConsumersEnergy.com/outagecenter.
7 Tips To Get Out of an Elevator Safely during a Power Outage
If there is a power outage while you’re in an elevator, don’t panic. Follow these seven instructions to get out as safely as possible:
- Follow Procedures Posted in Elevator: If you’re trapped in an elevator, always read the instructions posted inside.
- Press the “Open” Button: If you’re close to a specific floor or elevator landing, press the “open” button and exit with caution. The elevator may not be perfectly level with the floor or landing.
- Press the “Alarm” or “Help” Button: Within minutes, trained personnel should be able to respond.
- Use the Elevator’s Telephone: Some elevators include a telephone or two-way speaker system. You can attempt to make a call to emergency personnel.
- Attract Attention: Every couple minutes, yell for help or bang on the elevator door to give others a chance to hear you need help.
- Wait for Help: You should never try to escape through a partially opened door or a ceiling door. Wait calmly for trained emergency personnel to assist you.
- Take the Stairs: If you can, avoid using an elevator to get to the first floor during a storm or outage.
Safety is top priority at Consumers Energy. Click for safety tips including:
- Natural gas leaks
- Downed wires
- Call Miss Dig at 811 to dig safely
For more than 130 years, the American Red Cross has delivered help to many people going through challenges at home and abroad. It responds to nearly 70,000 disasters every year and provides 24-hour support to members of the military, veterans and their families around the world.
This month, we celebrate the American Red Cross for continuing to make a difference in the lives of Michigan residents.
American Red Cross Identification Program
During a power outage, Consumers Energy wants to make sure customers are safe and receive extra assistance if needed. The American Red Cross Identification Program provides aid to our electric customers who depend on electric powered life-support equipment, prescribed by a doctor. Examples include, but aren’t limited to:
- Apnea monitor
- Kidney dialysis machine
The American Red Cross also provides materials to help you prepare a personal emergency plan to follow in the event of a power outage. The information explains how to arrange for backup equipment and identifies actions to take during a power outage or other emergency.
Download an Identification Form at ConsumersEnergy.com/lifesupport
- Backup generators and transportation services are not part of this program
- Participation in this program does not mean your electric power will be restored sooner than other customers if there is an outage
- Consumers Energy also recommends you contact your equipment supplier for backup systems you can use during a power outage or other emergency
For more information on power outages, visit www.ConsumersEnergy.com/outageRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off on March is Red Cross Month; Get Life Support Help During Power Outages )
American Heart Month serves as a platform for raising awareness of America’s number one killer — heart disease. Beginning on the 10th anniversary of National Wear Red Day (Feb. 1) the American Heart Association is celebrating 12 years of wearing red to fight heart disease.
Proclaimed since 1963, February is commemorated as American Heart Month in order to urge Americans to join the battle against heart disease. The observation also recognizes the critical importance of developing tools that will increase survival rates from heart attacks and cardiac arrest.
The American Heart Association launched its Go Red For Women movement in February 2003 to raise awareness that heart disease is the number one killer of women. The grassroots campaign has since grown into a vibrant national movement as more women, men, celebrities, healthcare providers and politicians embrace and elevate the cause of women and heart disease.
The campaign provides women with tips and information on healthy eating, exercise, and risk factor reduction such as smoking cessation, weight maintenance, blood pressure control and blood cholesterol management.
What it means to Go Red:
- Get Your Numbers: Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Own Your Lifestyle: Stop smoking, lose weight, exercise and eat healthy.
- Realize Your Risk: We think it won’t happen to us, but heart disease kills one in three women.
- Educate Your Family: Make healthy food choices for you and your family. Teach your kids the importance of staying active.
- Don’t be silent: Tell every woman you know that heart disease is our number one killer. Raise your voice at GoRedForWomen.org.
Powered by the American Heart Association, GoRedForWomen.org and GoRedCorazon.org are the top online destinations where millions of women can learn how to make heart-healthy choices everyday.
Simple steps to obtain good heart health:
- Be aware.
Heart attack symptoms can include a multitude of things. The most common is chest pain and discomfort in the left arm. Women should be aware of silent heart attack symptoms, which include: shortness of breath, back pain, jaw pain and nausea. In the end, if you experience any symptoms mentioned, trust your gut and head to your local emergency room.
- Manage stress.
First, you must recognize how stress affects you. Without knowing, stress is your body’s RESPONSE to change. The body reacts by releasing a hormone (adrenaline) that can cause breathing and your heart rate to speed up along rising blood pressure. Constant and or continuous stress can be dangerous to your overall heart health.
- Stay active.
Staying healthy doesn’t consist of just eating healthy–you must get active. By helping the heart work more, you’re reducing blood pressure and decreasing blood to form clots. The African-American population also tends to have higher rates of obesity and diabetes, which puts us at greater risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. Those who can’t participate in high intensity activities should focus on a low intensity activity such as walking.
Along with working out, be sure to maintain a healthy weight. Keep track of what you eat to help you control your eating and weight. Download the American Heart Association’s food diary. It’s a good resource to help you keep track and reduce calories.
- Manage blood pressure
Another major risk for heart disease and stroke is high blood pressure. Having your blood pressure in a healthy range reduces strain on the arteries, heart and kidneys. More than 40 percent of non-Hispanic blacks have high blood pressure developing earlier in life and more severe in blacks than whites.
- Reduce blood sugar.
Having a healthy diet plays a major part in blood sugar. Your body uses energy from the majority of food we consume, which is turned into glucose or blood sugar. If your fasting blood sugar level is below 100, you are in the healthy range. If not, your results could indicate diabetes or pre-diabetes.
- QUIT smoking.
One of the most effective steps to staying healthy and preventing a heart attack is not smoking. Nicotine makes your heart rate and blood pressure skyrocket. It lowers your tolerance for physical activity and decreases good cholesterol. Smoking also damages your blood vessels and makes your blood sticky, which is a recipe for blood clots. Tobacco and carbon monoxide rob your heart, brain and arteries of oxygen—it’s time to listen to your heart.
Consumers Energy Employees Go Red For Women:
Whatever it takes for you to live a healthy life, do it. Life is why. For more information on heart healthy tips visit www.heart.org.
Guest blog compiled by Melissa Thrasher, communications director for the American Heart Association and Dr. Monique Butler, chief medical officer at Sinai-Grace Hospital, Detroit Medical Center.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off on Guest Blog: The American Heart Association Gives Tips to Prevent America’s No. 1 Killer )
According to Michigan.gov, the Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness estimates a quarter-million homes are damaged each winter due to frozen water pipes. To put the damage into perspective, an eighth-inch crack in a pipe can do enough harm to leak up to 250 gallons of water a day.
Consumers Energy wants to protect your household by offering customers tips to prevent pipes from freezing. By using the proper precautions, you can protect your floors, furniture and personal property this winter.
Top Six Ways to Prevent Frozen Pipes
You can take preventative action against frozen pipes with these tips:
- Keep garage doors closed if your garage holds water pipelines
- Open cabinet doors throughout your home to circulate warmer air to plumbing
- Let cold water drip from faucet so water can trickle through exposed pipes
- Insulate heating ducts and water pipes in basements, crawl spaces and attics
- If you are away from home, set the thermostat no lower than 55 degrees
- Hire a professional to relocate exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing
My Pipes Are Frozen, What’s Next?
If you turn on your faucet and only a trickle of water comes out—your pipes may be frozen. Call a licensed plumber immediately; you don’t want to take any chances. You should also:
- Turn off the water at your home’s main shut-off valve
- Keep the faucet open so water has a better chance of flowing through the frozen area
- Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch, open flame or electrical appliances
- Never use electrical appliances in areas of standing water
- Check for frozen pipes by opening other faucets throughout your home
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