Disaster Response and Mutual Aid

The spirit of community shines in mutual aid

The public power spirit of community extends to utilities helping each other through mutual aid. Mutual aid is neighbors helping neighbors in need, even when those neighbors are thousands of miles away.

More than 1,100 public power and rural cooperative utilities belong to the national public power mutual aid network. They’ve signed up because they want to give and get help for power restoration after a disaster.

When — and even before — a major disaster hits a utility’s territory, a utility can call for mutual aid when it knows that its own crews and equipment won’t be enough to restore power quickly. Other utilities respond as they are able. These efforts are coordinated by the American Public Power Association, together with many state and regional public power associations.

From summer 2017 through early 2018, our nation’s electric grid was hit hard by hurricanes, floods, fires, and brutal winter storms. The mutual aid network was put to the test with a series of disasters of unprecedented magnitude.

Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, public power utilities from each region of the country stepped up to help. The Northeast Public Power Association organized 27 member utilities to send 60 lineworkers to offer help to Florida, and 23 member utilities sent 123 lineworkers to help restore power in the U.S. Virgin Islands. And many more utilities sent crews to help Puerto Rico. Every individual who traveled to help spent hundreds of hours, working long days to get the lights back on for public power customers in each area.

Shortly after the hurricanes, and while the crews were still helping in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the Northeastern U.S. experienced a winter that brought four nor’easters, complete with strong winds, bitter cold, and feet of heavy, wet snow.

One winter storm hit New England while crews from the Northeast were providing aid in the USVI. To help their neighbors in Vermont and New Hampshire, which were hit hardest by the storm, members of the Municipal Electric Utilities Association of New York State and the New York Association of Public Power sent reinforcements and helped those areas restore power.

And just as the crews from the Northeast helped their neighbors, as the winter brought storm after storm, public power utility crews from South Carolina, Kentucky and Ohio traveled hundreds of miles to restore power in the Northeast.

Mutual aid also brings together the community of the industry as a whole. After quickly restoring their own customers, crews from New York and New England joined the crews helping from other parts of the country to continue to help customers served by investor-owned utilities get power restored.

Here at the Association, we continue to be proud to see the spirit of community shine in the robust responses to calls for mutual aid. We recognize that utility crews are more than a workforce with a special expertise — we are emergency responders, ready to deploy wherever our help is needed.

While we don’t want to see a disaster strike any community, we know from the past year that public power mutual aid can weather any storm.

Not part of the mutual aid network?

Sign up at www.PublicPower.org/MutualAid.