Powering Strong Communities
Disaster Response and Mutual Aid

National Hurricane Preparedness Week is a Reminder That Disasters Don’t Take Breaks

National Hurricane Preparedness Week this year begins May 1 and runs through May 7. This is an important week-long effort to prepare our country for this year’s hurricane season, which typically runs from June through November. 

National Hurricane Preparedness Week was originally known as National Hurricane Awareness Week. The word “Awareness” was changed to “Preparedness” since operations can be aware of something and not be prepared for it. Each year during Hurricane Preparedness Week, a specific hurricane-related topic is addressed, from storm surges to the disaster planning process, evacuation zones, and emergency alerts.

Remember, disasters don’t take breaks! At any given time, an emergency could reach the door of your utility. You may have asked your team in the past, “has our utility done everything we could to prepare for this hurricane season?” Well, now is the time to get ready and be ready! Last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted that the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season would be more active than average, and this proved to be true. The 2023 hurricane season is expected to be less active than normal for the first time in seven years, but of course, these predictions come without any certainty on whether your utility will be affected.

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. A major aspect of hurricane response is coordinated within the utilities by APPA’s Mutual Aid Committee (MAC). Chaired by Neil James from Santee Cooper, MAC is the collective body of public power State Mutual Aid coordinators that collaborate on sharing resources during disaster response.

According to Giacomo Wray, Operations Manager and lead for APPA’s support to the mutual aid program, “Now is the time when you want to refresh your plans to account for mutual aid and supply needs in the event disaster strikes.” Members can download the public power Mutual Aid Playbook which provides a process for coordinating activities, information, and resources across a three-tiered national network without infringing on mutual aid agreements between utilities. 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. Make sure you understand how to implement incident command systems at your utility by reviewing the Incident Command System Guide for Electric Utilities. Whether you are starting from scratch or updating an old plan, APPA’s disaster response page includes a wealth of resources to make this update process easier.

Along with updating your plans, now is the best time to get in touch with your regional Public Power Mutual Aid Network Coordinator. 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. Make sure your utility has a signed Mutual Aid Agreement and reach out to the APPA mutual aid team at [email protected] with any questions.