Disaster Response and Mutual Aid

AMP member crews help restore power to Ohio city hit by tornado

Marking the latest example of how the public power community comes together to help one another in times of need through mutual aid, more than a dozen public power utilities that are members of American Municipal Power, Inc. (AMP) sent crews earlier this week to assist the city of Shelby, Ohio, with restoration efforts after the city was hit by a tornado.

Initially, approximately 60% of the 5,000 meters/customers in Shelby, which is also an AMP member, were without power after an F2 tornado hit the city on Sunday, April 14. Approximately 20 industrial customers were without power on Sunday night, AMP noted.

Fifteen public power utilities, from as far away as 160 miles, that responded to assist Shelby with restoration efforts were: Bryan, Cuyahoga Falls, Galion, Hillsdale, Hudson, Jackson Center, Napoleon, Oberlin, Orrville, Plymouth, Pioneer, Piqua, Tipp City, Wadsworth and Westerville. All of these utilities are based in Ohio, with the exception of Hillsdale, which is located in Michigan.

“Our members place a high value on Mutual Aid,” said Jolene Thompson, AMP executive vice president of member services and external affairs. “The call to action in Shelby is an example of how our members always step up to help their fellow utility crews restore power to their customers as safely and quickly as possible – it is one of the many benefits of public power.”


In an email, Scott McKenzie, Director of Member Training and Safety at AMP, provided a chronology of events related to AMP member utility crews offering mutual aid assistance to Shelby after the tornado hit the city.

McKenzie was contacted on Sunday evening around 6:00 p.m. by AMP mutual aid “Blue Sector” coordinator Matt Horwedel with the City of Oberlin, who said that a tornado had touched down in Shelby.

McKenzie asked Horwedel to contact Doug Hurst, superintendent for the Shelby Electric Distribution Department, and ask for as accurate of an assessment of damage that he could give.

In the meantime, McKenzie activated a blue sector call for mutual aid through Horwedel and the “Group Me” app.

Around 7:15 p.m. on Sunday night, Shelby contacted Horwedel and he in turn called McKenzie, who subsequently activated three of AMP’s adjacent mutual aid sectors (Green, Red, Gold), contacted those sector coordinators and requested at least 10 four-man crews with bucket trucks and digger derrick trucks.

A decision was made by Shelby to not have any mutual aid report until 7 a.m. Monday morning. As of 9 p.m. on Sunday night, there were 15 crews committed to responding first thing Monday morning.

After a discussion with Bill Lyren, Jr., general manager at Ohio’s Wadsworth Electric and Communications and Gold Sector coordinator, “we decided that he should come to Shelby and offer assistance on Monday,” McKenzie said in the email.

Lyren helped to coordinate much of the restoration efforts with Hurst, while McKenzie worked on logistics and crew sheets, among other things, and assisted where needed throughout the day Monday.

Details on poles and wires replaced

McKenzie provided the following details on the number of poles or spans of wire that were replaced:

  • 30 new poles were set
  • 15 three-phase poles were blown over at a 45-degree angle and were pulled up and straightened
  • 11 spans of three-phase 1/0 primary were reinstalled
  • Nine spans of three-phase 4/0 primary were reinstalled
  • Four spans of double circuit three-phase 477 Primary were reinstalled
  • One substation was put back online
  • Two three-phase underground risers were rebuilt

AMP said that all power that can be restored in Shelby has been and that crews were released on Tuesday, April 16.

In an April 17 tweet, the City of Shelby provided a “huge thank you” to the AMP communities that supplied mutual aid. “What an incredible feat that was accomplished in a short amount of time,” the city said in the tweet.

For its part, AMP in an April 17 tweet said “Neighbors helping neighbors is what it is all about. Shelby will be back on track in no time thanks to the talented lineworkers that we are all so lucky to have!”

How the AMP mutual aid process works

AMP noted that it coordinates, provides guidance to all in the program and is a resource to all members who need assistance. 

The joint action agency is divided into six geographic sectors and each sector has a primary and back-up coordinator.  AMP oversees the entire program and serves the role of sector coordinator when the primary and/or back-up are unable to assist. 

Members begin the call for mutual aid by contacting their sector coordinator.  They can reach out to their back-up coordinator, McKenzie or the AMP dispatch center (24/7) if they have difficulty in reaching their coordinator. 

The coordinator collects the information, helps determine the amount of aid needed and then contacts others within the sector for help. 

In large events or events that impact multiple members within the sector, the coordinator contacts McKenzie, who reaches out the other sector coordinators to request mutual aid from other sectors. All coordinators notify McKenzie when an event occurs. 

Crew lists are created, show-up locations are established, and crews are dispatched to the requesting utility. AMP offers a number of guidelines on how to handle large scale outages. 

American Public Power Association and mutual aid

The Association offers a number of resources for member utilities in terms of mutual aid and preparing for and responding to disasters.

With respect to mutual aid, the Association’s website includes a webpage dedicated to mutual aid topics. That webpage also includes a link to the public power mutual aid playbook.

The Association’s Mutual Aid Working Group developed the playbook for public power utilities, network coordinators and the Association to refer to during disasters to ensure efficient power restoration after outages.