Disaster Response and Mutual Aid

New version of ESCC COVID-19 resource guide addresses control center social distancing

The Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC) has updated a resource guide it has developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes a new section about social distancing for control center personnel, and updates in several areas including mutual assistance considerations.

The guide was updated with the input of the American Public Power Association and public power utilities. Revisions to the guide were rolled out on April 16 (version five) and on April 20 (version six).

The guide is a living document developed under the direction of the ESCC. It will be updated and distributed regularly by the ESCC Secretariat, based on input from several "Tiger Teams" of industry leaders who are tracking key issues related to this global health emergency.

The ESCC offers updates on the following topics in versions five and six of the guide:

Updates for Control Center Continuity

  • Identifying Critical Control Center Personnel
  • Possible Mitigation Strategies for Scenarios
  • Sequestration Guidelines and Considerations

Updates for Mutual Assistance Considerations

  • Pandemic Mutual Assistance Checklist

Updates for Generation Operational Continuity

  • Scenario Development
  • Possible Mitigation Strategies for Scenarios
  • Sequestration for Generation Considerations

Updates for Supply Chain Considerations

  • Supply Chain Considerations for Industry-Critical PPE

Version five includes new section on social distancing for control center personnel

The one new section in version five of the guide involves social distancing for control center personnel.

“Social distancing, or limiting physical interactions between individuals, can be an effective strategy for reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19,” the guide said.

“CDC guidance on social distancing recommends maintaining at least 6 feet of physical distance between individuals, including in the workplace when possible. Strategies for implementing social distancing in a control center environment are outlined below. These solutions can be paired together, as appropriate, based on factors related to each organization’s workforce and the physical space available for control center operations.”

Version five of the resource guide noted that NERC has published an FAQ on using interactive remote access if an entity can’t staff its control center, which can be found here.


This section also included the following guidance:

Leverage additional control rooms to limit rotation of personnel

  • Primary and backup (or dual primary) control rooms should be utilized with control center operators split-assigned.

Repurpose spaces in control centers to limit physical interactions between control center personnel

  • Consider which, if any, personnel can perform their jobs in spaces adjacent to an existing control room.
  • In any scenario where a shift of control center personnel is not in the same room, the lines of communication between employees should remain open, clear, and easily accessible.

Physically separate workstations within a control room

  • Workstations should allow for at least 6 feet of space between employees.
  • Room design and other physical space limitations, including the placement of wiring, may restrict options for where workstations can be located.

Designate workstations for individual operators

  • Assigning each employee a dedicated workstation reduces the likelihood that an employee will come into contact with a contaminated surface.
  • If physical space or the number of available workstations is limited, this may make it more difficult to ensure that there is enough physical distance (at least 6 feet) between workstations.

Enable remote operations outside of a single control room

  • Not all control center operations can be performed remotely. This option only may be feasible for non-control functions, including monitoring, data analytics, and other situational awareness functions.
  • Remote operations increase the potential for security vulnerabilities.
  • When implementing any remote operations for control center personnel, it is critical that lines of communication between employees remain open, clear, and accessible. Remote operations may increase reliance on commercial telecommunications infrastructure and may eliminate the option to use some backup channels of communication.
  • The NERC Reliability Standards address requirements for bulk electric system control centers and security controls for remote access of systems, applications, or data.