Disaster Response and Mutual Aid

ESCC updated COVID-19 Resource Guide addresses PPE needs, control center mutual assistance

The Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC) has updated a resource guide it has developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The guide was updated with the input of the American Public Power Association and public power utilities. The updated guide, which was released on April 7, is the fourth version of the guide, which is a living document developed under the direction of the ESCC.

The new sections of the guide are as follows:



  • Mutual Assistance for Control Center Operators
  • FERC Acts to Prioritize Reliability, Provide Regulatory Relief



  • Case Studies and Lessons Learned from COVID-19
  • Sequestration for Generation Considerations
  • Mutual Assistance for Generation Considerations
  • COVID-19 Interim Cleaning and Disinfection Protocol for Generation Control Rooms
  • Additional Resources
  • Nuclear Generation: NRC Issues Instructions for Obtaining Relief from Work Hours Rules



  • Supply Chain Considerations for Industry-Critical Personal Protective Equipment
  • Natural Gas Delivery Materials List

Mutual Assistance for Control Center Operators

The updated guide notes that continuity of control center operations is driven by the health and availability of trained personnel. “This has led many organizations to develop and activate plans that involve isolation or sequestration of control center operators to maintain shift integrity and to limit the potential exposure to COVID-19. However, given the shortage of available testing for mission-essential employees, circumstances may arise in which isolation or sequestration fails to protect workforces adequately and additional actions are needed to supplement control center operations.” 

Mutual assistance or mutual aid “is a model that the industry uses very effectively to supplement an impacted organization’s workforce during emergencies like severe weather events, and this model may be adapted to help fill control center gaps during a pandemic.”

At the same time, the updated guide said that there are many challenges and constraints around using mutual assistance in these circumstances, “and careful consideration is needed to mitigate the risks associated with sending employees to other service territories.”

Sequestration for Generation Considerations

Meanwhile, the updated guide noted that owners and operators of generating units will consider the sequestration of mission-essential generation control center staff in order to keep them healthy and to ensure continuity of operations. “Separating these essential and hard-to-replace employees from their families is not an easy decision, but it is a decades-old industry practice to ensure electricity is available in times of need.”

This new section of the guide lays out guidance and suggested critical lessons learned from generator operators, nuclear generating stations, and independent power producers already practicing sequestration during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supply Chain Considerations for Industry-Critical PPE

The ESCC said that as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, the electric power industry recognizes that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is in short supply even for first responders and the healthcare sector. “Energy and other critical sectors now are considering alternatives to keep workers safe while maintaining reliable service.”

This new section of the guide provides planning considerations and resources to help investor-owned electric and/or natural gas companies, public power utilities, and electric cooperatives meet their PPE needs by identifying:

  • Mission critical PPE, cleaning products, and related supplies for the electric power and natural gas industry;
  • Non-government vendors/suppliers for PPE;
  • Guidance for engaging those suppliers; and
  • Creative practices for creating alternative PPE and other protective equipment.

“While our sector recognizes that the priority is to ensure that PPE is available for workers in the healthcare sector and first responders, a reliable energy supply is required for healthcare and other sectors to deliver their critical services,” the ESCC said.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) emphasized the importance of the energy sector, recently releasing an advisory guidance on Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers, that includes energy company and utility workers, the ESCC noted.

In addition, the ESCC has identified a subset of highly skilled energy workers who are unable to work remotely and who are mission-essential during this extraordinary time. “Consequently, there is a need to elevate the availability of PPE for workers in the energy sector at the federal, state, and local levels.”

The updated guide is available here.