Disaster Response and Mutual Aid

AMP member utilities come to aid of Ohio city hit by tornado

Crews from a large number of American Municipal Power, Inc. (AMP) member utilities recently provided mutual aid assistance to Celina, Ohio, after the city was hit by an EF3 tornado on Memorial Day.

AMP coordinates, provides guidance to all in its mutual aid 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. 

Chronology of events

Scott McKenzie, AMP’s director of member training and safety, provided a detailed chronology of the events that occurred after the tornado hit Celina, which is a member of AMP.

McKenzie noted that late in the evening of Monday, May 27, Bob Bowman, assistant director of Piqua Power Systems in Piqua, Ohio, and AMP’s Mutual Aid “Green Sector” coordinator, notified McKenzie that Mike Mertz, electric superintendent of Celina, had called and explained that his system had been hit by a tornado.

McKenzie asked Bowman to start notifying other AMP members of the AMP Mutual Aid Green Sector and request aid.

Mertz’s initial assessment was that at least 12 three-phase poles had been taken out. Mertz later reported that approximately 24 poles were down, many of them three-phase. 

At around 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 28, Bowman contacted McKenzie to let him know that the situation was much worse in Celina.

Bowman and McKenzie decided to contact the adjacent AMP Mutual Aid Red Sector coordinator Adam Brandt, electric superintendent for the City of Bryan, Ohio. The Green Sector had responded through the “Group Me” app and texts to Bowman, and as of 2 a.m. there were seven AMP members ready to respond out of the Green Sector.

At around 4 a.m. on Tuesday, Brandt informed McKenzie that there were six Red Sector members ready to respond first thing in the morning. Mertz from Celina asked for all crews to start arriving between 6-6:30 a.m. on Tuesday. “It was the best and safest plan with all of the destruction to wait until daylight,” McKenzie noted.

100 percent of residents were without power at height of event

At the height of the event Celina had 100 percent of residents without power, but 90 percent were restored 24 hours after the tornado hit.

With respect to the number of poles or spans of wire that were replaced in Celina, McKenzie provided the following information:

  • 35 poles down and another 70 poles had to be straightened
  • Over 60 spans of primary, 17,000 ft. of #2 ACSR
  • 4,000 ft of #336 primary, equivalent to approximately four miles of line
  • 28 transformers were damaged as well

AMP member utilities that sent crews to Celina to help with power restoration were:

Red Sector: Bryan, Bowling Green, Coldwater (Mich.), Montpelier, Napoleon, Pioneer

Green Sector: Jackson Center, Minster, New Bremen, Piqua, St. Marys, Wapakoneta and Westerville

All crews were released by 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 29.

“AMP would like to emphasize how hard the AMP member communities worked to restore power in Celina,” McKenzie said.

“We thank those that responded and the several other members that contacted us with offers to assist if needed. It was greatly appreciated by all involved,” he said. “The linemen who responded are truly a major part of what makes public power such an advantage.”

AMP members recently assisted another city hit by a tornado

In April, more than a dozen public power utilities that are members of AMP sent crews to assist the city of Shelby, Ohio, with restoration efforts after that city was hit by a tornado.

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 (MAWG) developed the playbook for public power utilities, network coordinators and the Association to refer to during disasters to ensure efficient power restoration after outages.

The MAWG met at the Association’s office in Virginia in May and will hold another exercise in the fall.