Disaster Response and Mutual Aid

PUDs help Snohomish County with wind storm restoration efforts

Several public utility districts from Washington State recently sent crews to help Snohomish County PUD quickly restore power to Snohomish County PUD customers in the wake of a wind storm that hit on the morning of Dec. 20.

The storm peaked shortly after noon on Dec. 20 with 55,000 customers out of power, noted Neil Neroutsos, Snohomish County PUD spokesman. The highest winds were recorded at Paine Field, in Everett, Wash., at 66 miles per hour. All Snohomish County PUD customers were restored by Sunday evening, Dec. 23.

The following PUDs provided mutual aid assistance to Snohomish: Grant County, Chelan County (two crews), Douglas County, Benton County, Okanogan County, Franklin County and Grays Harbor (2 crews). Snohomish County PUD also had about 10 contract tree crews mostly from Kemp West and Asplundh, Neroutsos noted.

Within Washington State there is a mutual aid agreement among about 30 public power utilities. The utilities meet three times each year to, among other things, set rates, safety conditions, gear and equipment requirements.

They also set working hours during a storm. In general, these crews work an initial shift of up to 40 hours, then take an eight-hour break. Their next shifts are either 16 or 24 hours, depending on the utility, Neroutsos said.

Snohomish makes effective use of social media

Throughout the initial storm’s impact and subsequent restoration efforts, Snohomish County PUD effectively leveraged social media tools to keep customers up to date on restoration efforts and offer thanks to the other PUDs that sent crews.

In a Dec. 20 tweet, Snohomish County PUD posted a guide to some of its vehicles in order to give customers details on the purpose of a particular truck they may see during restoration work, noting that each has its own purpose and type of crew. Sometimes a service crew can make the repair, but other crews are often needed for larger jobs, the PUD said. The vehicles listed by the PUD with related descriptions were: service trucks, bucket trucks, digger derrick trucks and flagger trucks.

In another tweet sent on Dec. 20, the PUD posted a graphic of its five-stage restoration plan. At the time of the tweet, the PUD was at stage two of the restoration plan, which includes investigating high priority issues like wires down and oil spills.

Neroutsos said that the restoration plan worked smoothly for this most recent storm.

On Dec. 23, when power was completely restored, Snohomish County PUD sent a tweet thanking all of the contract and mutual aid crews “who drove the many miles and worked in the dark and cold to help us fulfill our mission.” On the same day, the PUD tweeted a thank you “to all of our employees involved in restoration efforts. You did an outstanding job restoring power to our customers. Most importantly, you worked safely and there were no injuries during the restoration work.”

American Public Power Association and mutual aid

At the national level, the American Public Power 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.

The Mutual Aid Working Group comprises representatives from public power utilities, state associations, and joint action agencies. The goal of the MAWG is to advance public power’s mutual aid and disaster management best practices for large-scale events.

For more information about the Association’s mutual aid program, click here.