Disaster Response and Mutual Aid

ESCC releases set of basic planning considerations for power sector contact tracing

The Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council recently released a set of basic planning considerations that can help utilities develop approaches that fit local conditions for contact tracing tied to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The planning considerations are based on contact tracing plans that are being developed and used across the electric power industry, which were collected by the ESCC’s Responsible Reentry and Return to Workplace Tiger Team.

The Responsible Re-Entry and Return to the Workplace Tactical Tiger Team is a group of 180 plus energy sector utility representatives brought together to help share experiences and planning considerations from the individual organizations. There are over 70 representatives from public power.

The output of this group was a 28-page section on Responsible Re-Entry and Return to the Workplace, that was included in version 8 of the ESCC Resource Guide, which was released last week.

The May 11 contact tracing document notes that in general contact tracing includes the following steps:

  • Report: An employee reports that he/she has symptoms of COVID-19, has tested positive for the virus, or has had contact with a person who has a confirmed COVID-19 case to the organization’s human resources (HR) staff or to an appropriate person (e.g., his/her supervisor) who alerts the HR staff;
  • Mitigate: The employee is sent home and asked to self-quarantine. All affected workplace areas and vehicles are cleaned and disinfected;
  • Investigate: HR staff interviews the employee to identify his/her close contacts in the workplace and to provide guidance on seeking medical attention;
  • Inform: HR staff informs the employee’s close contacts of their exposure and provides guidance on mitigation steps; and
  • Track and Follow-Up: HR staff conducts follow-up interviews with the employee and his/her close workplace contacts to track symptoms and to indicate when/if he/she can return to the workplace.

“Any contact tracing effort should be developed in coordination with organized labor (if applicable), HR professionals, and legal counsel, and should be communicated clearly to the workforce and to other stakeholders,” the ESCC Tiger Team said. “In addition, the process should emphasize and value employee confidentiality and adhere to applicable local, state, and federal privacy laws.”

Planning considerations 

The Tiger Team offers details on the following contact tracing planning considerations:

  • Starting the contact tracing process
  • Defining “close contacts”
  • Engaging with the potentially infected employee and exposed contacts
  • Tracking and follow-up protocols,
  • Use of technology
  • Engagement with state/local governments and external tracing programs

The Tiger Team will continue to work with investor-owned electric companies, public power utilities, and electric cooperatives to identify and share leading practices for contact tracing. Natural gas and independent power producer groups are also involved.

The contact tracing planning considerations document is available here.

The ESCC serves as a liaison between the federal government and the electric power industry on cybersecurity, physical security, natural disasters, and pandemic events.