Powering Strong Communities
Disaster Response and Mutual Aid

Helping Public Power Utilities Prepare for the Worst

As the public power Mutual Aid Committee gathered in mid-March at our office in Arlington, Virginia, for their spring meeting, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across portions of Ohio, resulting in damage and power outages in multiple communities. Fortunately, American Municipal Power coordinated a local mutual aid effort to help restore power in the affected communities with assistance from neighboring public power utilities. The storms were a stark reminder that severe weather can occur anywhere, at any time, and cause outages that require a coordinated emergency response.

How Mutual Aid Works

More than 1,200 public power utilities are part of a mutual aid community. With mutual aid, utilities come together before a storm ever happens to agree to share crews and equipment when needed. In the event of a storm, crews from around the region, or all over the country offer assistance to the utility or utilities affected to help them restore damaged parts of the system. For larger events that can be forecast, assisting crews are positioned on the outskirts of the storm to go in and help restore power as soon as it is safe to do so. 

Public power utilities can download the Mutual Aid Playbook, which further explains the process for coordinating activities, information, and resources across a three-tiered national network, including criteria for when events merit a local, regional, or national response. The playbook is flexible and scalable to enable the successful coordination of mutual aid mobilizations for restoration events resulting from all hazards, including natural and man-made disasters and security or cybersecurity events that result in utility customer outages. 

Mutual Aid Committee members and APPA staff, March 14, 2024
APPA's Mutual Aid Committee gathered for its spring meeting on March 14-15, 2024.

The Mutual Aid Committee is comprised of state coordinators who collaborate on disaster response, share ideas and resources, review and update preparedness resources for members, and anything else to help facilitate mutual aid. APPA also works closely with our fellow electric sector trade associations and government partners here in Washington, D.C. to ensure that we can rely on each other for major storm response activities.

Staying Prepared

The Mutual Aid Network is a valuable asset for the public power community. There is no obligation to send crews when response is requested, and public power utilities that participate are already a step ahead in having the necessary groundwork for receiving assistance should an event affect their system. 

Being a part of the network is simple: 

  • Make sure your utility has a signed Mutual Aid Agreement (learn more).
  • If you’re part of the Mutual Aid Network, connect with your regional mutual aid coordinator to establish a rapport in “blue sky” times. Network coordinators provide general situational awareness from the regions they represent and are your first point of contact in the event of a disaster requiring mutual aid. 

Please reach out to the APPA mutual aid team at [email protected] with any questions.  

More Preparedness Resources

Every year is unique and holds fresh challenges. Taking the time now to ensure your utility has an up-to-date preparedness program will save you time and effort in the event of a disaster. A good preparedness program requires constant evaluation and improvement of your utility’s emergency policies and procedures.

APPA’s mutual aid and emergency response page includes a wealth of resources to help you create or update a plan, including our Restoration Best Practices Guidebook, All-Hazards Guidebook, Storm Communications Guide, and Incident Command System Guide for Electric Utilities.  

In addition to the graphics, tips, and sample messages included in the resources above, you can also help explain emergency response and recovery to your community with planning resources from Ready.gov and awareness materials related to National Hurricane Preparedness Week, which takes place May 5-11 this year.

At any given time, an emergency could reach your community. Has your utility done everything possible to prepare for the worst? APPA and the public power community are here to help you get ready, stay ready, and get help – or provide it to your fellow utilities – when it’s needed.