Utility Budget Planning and the Culture of Prevention

All utilities face budget challenges. Even those with extensive public safety outreach programs need to continue to promote and maintain internal support and funding for these initiatives. The key to creating an enduring and effective safety program that survives budget cycles is to create a Culture of Prevention throughout the utility.

By promoting a Culture of Prevention, an economic case can be made to support—and even increase—funding for public safety outreach.

A Culture of Prevention recognizes that public safety measures deliver significant outcomes for the business: saving lives, preventing injuries, reducing costs, mitigating litigation, and enhancing the utility’s reputation and the value of its brand. (To learn more about the positive correlation between robust public safety communications and community stewardship satisfaction, check out the industry-focused customer impact report from J.D. Power.) When considered as part of a utility’s overall business strategy, a Culture of Prevention has the potential for increasing value for just about every internal stakeholder.

To build an economic case for public safety outreach, consider the following elements:

  • Identify the potential for cost savings to the utility and its customers through reduced claims and claims administration.
  • Solicit input from risk management and insurance sources, who may be able to help you demonstrate the benefits of public safety in mitigating risk—through efforts to cap or even reduce insurance premiums.
  • Research the positive impact of public safety outreach programs on preventing outages and maintaining system reliability.
  • Demonstrate the positive impacts of your public safety outreach initiatives on customer opinions and satisfaction with the utility…research has shown that improving customers’ perceptions about public safety enhances a utility’s reputation.
  • Show the effects of your utility’s public safety program on rate case outcomes.
  • Find internal public safety champions across the enterprise and bring them into your discussions about the need for promoting safety awareness among at-risk customers.

When possible, document and internally share your own public safety success stories. For example, we know of a public safety manager for a large combination company who shared the praises her utility received from the parents of a 12-year-old child. The child received utility-sponsored safety education in her school and used this knowledge to save the lives of her family by preventing them from approaching a downed power line in their yard. Success stories such as this one go a long way toward raising visibility of your program and communicating its value.

As the utility industry continues to transform, public safety managers will remain under enormous pressure to reduce expenses and maximize value. Public safety initiatives, as with all areas of a utility’s business, are being carefully scrutinized. However, by linking your outreach internally to your utility’s Culture of Prevention, your management and customers will experience the dramatic results of your safety efforts, through saved lives as well as improved reliability and enhanced value.

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