Disaster Response and Mutual Aid
Community Engagement

APPA, member utilities take action in lead up to Hurricane Matthew

In the days leading up to Hurricane Matthew barreling towards the East Coast of the U.S., the American Public Power Association and several of its member utilities took a number of proactive steps to prepare for the hurricane. APPA activated its mutual aid network, while public power utilities from various parts of the country sent crews to assist member utilities in the projected pathway of Matthew.

As of 2:00 pm ET on Oct. 7, the hurricane was moving toward the northeast corner of Florida along the coast of Georgia and South Carolina at a rate of 13 mph. This general motion was expected to continue Friday. A turn toward the north was expected Friday or Saturday.

Maximum sustained winds were near 115 mph with higher gusts. As of Friday afternoon, Matthew was a category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale and it was expected to remain a hurricane until it begins to move away from the United States on Sunday.

Mutual Aid network

During situations like a hurricane, APPA will activate its mutual aid network and the association works with its utility, state association, and joint action agency members, as well as other industry associations and federal agencies, to enhance communication during preparation for and recovery from disasters.

With respect to Hurricane Matthew, a network coordinator call was scheduled to occur on Oct. 8.

A network coordinator serves as the point of contact for a group of participating mutual aid utilities or in rare situations, a large or isolated utility. Network coordinators may be part of a state association, joint action agency or public power utility.

"I rely on the public power mutual aid network for at least half of our crews that traveled to Florida," said Barry Moline, executive director, Florida Municipal Electric Association. "We have a nationwide pool of highly trained professionals who back each other up in time of need to restore power quickly and safely." Moline, who serves on APPA's board of directors, is also a network coordinator.

Meanwhile, public power utilities from other parts of the country are sending crews to help out.

Nebraska's Lincoln Electric System on Oct. 6 said that it was deploying staff and vehicles to help Florida public power utilities with anticipated power restoration efforts due to Matthew.

LES, a member of the mutual aid network, said that 13 LES employees with seven trucks would report to Vero Beach, Florida.

Oklahoma-based Grand River Dam Authority also sent several crews to assist and posted this video on its Facebook page showing GRDA crews rolling out.

The Missouri Public Utility Alliance noted on its Twitter feed on Oct. 6 that it was sending 36 linemen, eight digger trucks and eight bucket trucks as mutual aid response to Matthew. Municipal line crews from Missouri were in Orlando, Florida, ready for recovery work in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. The linemen are from Columbia, Springfield, Independence, Macon and Hannibal, Missouri.

In an Oct. 6 news release, MPUA said the response, coordinated through MPUA, allows city utility workers to help during widespread outages in other communities. Assisting cities are reimbursed by municipal utilities receiving assistance.

MPUA noted that preparedness coordinators for Florida's public power utilities issued a call for mutual aid assistance on Oct. 5 to the four-state FEMA region of Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas.

Coordinated by MPUA staff and utilities, lineworker crew commitments from Missouri's cities were received in less than one hour from the request, with crews on the road to Florida three hours later.

San Antonio, Texas-based CPS Energy on Oct. 7 said that in response to requests from APPA and the Texas Public Power Association, CPS Energy will be sending several crews and support teams to Orlando, Florida to assist with storm restoration efforts.

The utility said that nearly 50 CPS Energy team members would embark on a two-day trip on the morning of Oct. 8, with its restoration team including line crews, pole crews, overhead construction personnel, fleet personnel, and safety team members.

Investor-owned utilities and cooperatives were also sending crews to assist utilities in the path of the hurricane.

Hurricane hit during public power national tabletop exercise

On Oct. 4 and 5, APPA, in cooperation with the Department of Energy, hosted a public power national tabletop exercise in Arlington, Va., intended to review, validate, and examine any gaps in the Mutual Aid Playbook during a large-scale power disruption.

The emphasis of the exercise was on the roles and responsibilities of utility providers and partners, facilitating resource requests, maintaining situational awareness and validating plans and procedures.

The exercise looked at a scenario involving a natural disaster impacting multiple states' energy infrastructure requiring an organized, national mutual aid response — specifically, an earthquake.

Hurricane Matthew disrupted the exercise forcing many participants to step out to address storm readiness. "The timing of this exercise is prescient as Hurricane Matthew makes its way toward landfall," said APPA President and CEO Sue Kelly. "In many ways this is life imitating art imitating life."

Kelly was joined by several other APPA staff members at the tabletop exercise including Michael Hyland, APPA's senior vice president for engineering services.

Executives representing members of APPA's Mutual Aid Working Group also participated in the tabletop exercise. Included among those executives was FMEA's Moline.

Mutual Aid and Public Power Ready webpages

APPA 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, APPA's website includes a webpage dedicated to mutual aid topics. That webpage also includes a link to the mutual aid public power playbook.

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

PublicPower.org/Ready is a new resource to help customers understand what the public power community is doing to prepare for a storm, and offers steps customers can take to safely weather storms in their area. The page also features a collection of tools for utilities to help them in their own preparations.