Community Engagement

Standing together to power strong communities

Whether it's meeting evolving customer needs, assuring safety and reliability, or serving their communities in novel ways — often with limited staff and resources — public power utilities are working hard. Sometimes I marvel at just how much they do to power strong communities.

Much of this is, of course, thanks to folks who are doing some of the grittiest work in the electricity business — maintaining all the equipment that keeps the lights on for our customers. And linework is no easy job. It's one of the hardest and most dangerous. Hear from the widow of a fallen lineworker in Last Word.

Stories like Tracy Moore's are precisely why it's so important to the American Public Power Association that lineworkers stay safe when doing their job. For the 16th time since 1955, we've published a new edition of the Safety Manual. (Read more on page 8.)
At the annual Public Power Lineworkers Rodeo in San Antonio in May we'll reward the teams that perform their work in the safest manner in various simulated conditions.

While the work lineworkers do is vital to our industry's success and very serious, if I've learned one thing about them, it's that they are very proud of their skills and love to show them off. The Public Power Lineworkers Rodeo is our most memorable celebratory event.

Competition and events aside, one of the best parts of the Lineworker's Rodeo for me is witnessing the camaraderie. Teams from utilities across the nation compete against each other, but they may have also worked hand-in-hand restoring power, thanks to a mutual aid agreement. They may be competing in the morning and checking out each other's T-shirt art in the afternoon. (Having sold shirts in the Association's store more than once, I can personally attest to the strong appetite for T-shirts among lineworkers and their families!) Such relationships are the very fabric of public power's strength. Our communities vary in size, but we are powerful when we stand together.

For a long time, the mutual aid network for the electricity industry needed to address only physical threats. The biggest threats to our system were unpredictable weather events — wind storms, ice storms, hurricanes … even squirrels! But the world around us has changed and so have the threats to our reliability and safety. Cybersecurity is now a top priority for public power utilities, and this is where new relationships are forming to expand our community's strength.

I'm talking about cyber mutual assistance — translating everything we know about coming to each other's aid in physical scenarios to those digital threats. The Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (on which Kevin Wailes, CEO of Lincoln Electric System, is co-chair) has already assembled a team of utility representatives to build this cyber mutual assistance network. Representing public power on the network's executive committee is Randy Crissman, vice president of technical compliance operations at the New York Power Authority. Crissman and other utility representatives are developing a cyber mutual assistance agreement that 80-plus utilities have already signed. This agreement spells out the processes utilities would use to ask for support and how they would provide reimbursement in a cyberattack — just like mutual aid agreements public power utilities already employ for physical events.

The process and participants are evolving and this group needs public power's strength more than ever. I encourage you to participate, especially if your team includes cybersecurity specialists who bring unique skills to the table. The group is actively seeking more participants — email [email protected] for more information.

As the electricity landscape changes, public power utilities are exploring new ways of working together to deal with these changes. The American Public Power Association is here to support you. Find resources throughout this special Engineering issue of Public Power Magazine and on our website And I hope to see you at the rodeo!