Disaster Response and Mutual Aid

Public power restoration assistance to La. cooperative offers good neighbor example

The power restoration efforts from Hurricane Delta in which public power utilities are helping Louisiana cooperative SLEMCO “can serve as an example of how utilities can be good neighbors,” said Jeff Stewart, Engineering and Power Supply Manager, at Louisiana public power utility Lafayette Utilities System (LUS) on Oct. 14.

When it comes to public power utilities, “every decision we make has our customers in mind. And when you think about it that way, it’s easy to offer assistance to other utilities because their customers need the help. It’s just the right thing to do,” said Stewart.

“So as we concluded our restoration efforts, we reached out to SLEMCO to see if there were any unmet needs,” he noted. “Their service territory is widespread and Hurricane Delta hit their system really hard. They took us up on the offer and we immediately began coordinating the transition of mutual aid crews from LUS to SLEMCO. Every crew we spoke with were happy and eager to help too. So it worked out well.”

In addition, “since our service territories are so close, many of our employees are customers of SLEMCO. So naturally we want to help.”

The restoration efforts from Hurricane Delta “can serve as an example of how utilities can be good neighbors. There are instances when we compete. There are instances where we might disagree on policy or philosophy.” But ultimately, “we agree that customers are first, and everything else goes away so we can collaborate to restore the system,” Stewart said.

Jason Miller, Electrical Distribution Engineering Coordinator at LUS, noted that public power utilities deployed to help SLEMCO as part of a mutual aid agreement developed by the American Public Power Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Miller said that crews from a number of public power utilities were transferred to SLEMCO from LUS on Oct. 13 and are still working with the cooperative. LUS this week restored power to all customers that were affected by Hurricane Delta that can receive power.

Crews from the following public power communities and utilities were deployed from LUS: Highpoint, Wake Forest, Henderson, JEA, Santee Cooper and Orlando.

Miller coordinated crews from the following public power communities and utilities once they completed work in other towns:

  • Opelika, AL
  • Conway Corp, AR
  • Harrisonville, MO
  • Nixa, MO
  • Palmyra, MO
  • Poplar Bluff, MO
  • Rocky Mount, NC
  • Austin Energy

During a storm event, Miller has a myriad of responsibilities including mutual aid coordination.

He is the mutual aid coordinator for LUS, as well as the assistant national coordinator for the state of Louisiana. "The national coordinator and I work with LEPA [Louisiana Energy & Power Authority] in facilitating coordination efforts for LEPA members and non-members requesting aid within the state."

The network coordinator is also the Restoration Coordinator for LUS “resulting in him being extremely busy with LUS restoration efforts. He has been in the business for 36 years and has become a point of contact for most smaller municipalities, mayors, or utility managers,” Miller noted.

“Once a request is made, I set forth in contacting network coordinators with-in the surrounding regions to fill the needs that arise. Typically, less than half the local towns request aid prior to a storm. This gives me time to line up assistance for LUS. After damages are assessed, the real work begins making certain towns get the assistance they need in the form of people and materials,” Miller said.