Protection Zone Management Compliance

Regulatory bodies and insurance companies recognize the benefits of substation and line patrol inspections. Together, they have created inspection requirements for electric utilities, ensuring consistent and responsible inspections.


While some inspection program requirements are more detailed than others, they all share common themes. Some of the regulatory bodies that have adopted substation requirements include:

  • North American Reliability Corporation (NERC)
  • Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
  • State Public Utility Commissions
  • Rural Electrification Administration (REA)
  • Insurance Companies
  • Municipal and Cooperative Boards


Regulations spell out minimum requirements based on best practices. Some of the common requirements of good inspection software include the following:

  • Qualifications of Inspectors
  • Equipment to be Inspected
  • Frequency of Inspections
  • Record Keeping and Retention
  • Assessments and Audits (including Office and Field Visits)
  • Enforcement


Some of the common violations include:

  • Inspections are not completed on a dedicated schedule.
  • Poorly maintained equipment, e.g., rust, contamination, leakage, etc.
  • Wildlife obstructing substation equipment.
  • Birds and bird nests obstructing substation equipment.
  • Equipment gauges not operating properly.
  • Equipment damage.

A Message From The CEO

The idea for Protection Zone Management™ (PZM) started in the middle of a power outage.

I was the operations manager, and the crew was trimming trees that just caused a major feeder to open. Over 500 meters were out of power, and by the time we identified the problem, cleared the tree branches, the outage was over two hours. It was over 1,000 outage hours against my SAIDI score.

Why were trees growing in a major feeder that would cause a major outage not trimmed on time?

At the time, I managed over 20 substations and 100's of miles of distribution lines.

We had a typical inspection program. Our substation inspector would walk through the substations monthly. Hand in his paperwork, and tell me about any problems they found.

Our lineman would patrol the feeders every 5 years or so, hand in their paperwork, and document the deficiencies they would find.

The tree trimmers would roll through every year and trim trees based on a 7-year grid covering the trees on the system.

The inspections were 'kind-of' kept up with. And, the inspection paperwork often ended up in a file, never to be reviewed again.

The Bottom Line

There always seems to be more oil leaks and loose hardware in substations and more cracked crossarms on distribution lines, and more trees to trim than a utilities workforce and maintenance budget can keep up with.

We were no different. And these trees were no different.

That day, I was determined to find a better way!

  • I was convinced that day there was a better way to trim trees.
  • I was convinced we would never have a major outage due to trees again.
  • I was convinced there was a better way to deploy our limited workforce and maintenance budget.

With that, PZM was born.

We needed to inspect better. Capture the deficiencies found on the inspections better. And, most importantly—we needed to assess the risk of any deficiencies and repair the high-risk problems first!

If we had a limited workforce and limited budgets, we had to get the highest and best use out of these limited resources.

The PZM process identifies high, probability, high consequence problems and runs them through the PZM Risk Matrix, then sorts what to repair next.

Using PZM, major outages, loss of high asset value equipment, loss of revenue, and high liability failures can be minimized or eliminated.

How It Works

PZM starts with a thorough inspection. PZM runs on a hand-held, mobile device that guides inspectors through the entire inspection process:

  • When inspections are due.
  • What specific equipment needs to be inspected.

The questions are explicitly written for the exact equipment being inspected.

Our client's inspections are more thorough, more consistent, and PZM is finding problems they previously did not know existed.

When an inspector enters a deficiency, it is instantly ranked against all other deficiencies in the system, and ranked based on the consequence of a failure.

The inspector and the manager can use this information to guide repairs. PZM offers many other benefits I can't squeeze into an introductory message.

Our Promise

PZM's goal is to use software tools and domain expertise to develop an industry-leading inspection program.

Today, our utility clients benefit from our unique 'Protection Zone' and 'Risk Matrix' approach, and our commitment to continually innovating new solutions for the utility industry.

We look forward to working with you! Sign up for a demo, and let's get started.

Jay M. Elquist, P.E.

Chief Executive Officer, PZM
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Protection Zone Management

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