Electric Companies Mobilize in Response to Hurricane Irma

The Edison Electric Institute’s network of members, as well as the group’s industry partners, are helping restore power to the millions affected by Hurricane Irma.

As part of Edison Electric Institute’s Mutual Assistance Network, at least 50,000 workers and crews in the electricity sector have already been deployed to areas affected by Hurricane Irma to provide power restoration help.

Scott Aaronson, EEI’s executive director for security and business continuity, said bringing the entire sector together to tackle problems is important “both when there are blue skies and when there are storms.”

The network is composed of seven Regional Mutual Assistance Groups that work with electric companies in affected areas. As in the case of an event like Hurricane Irma, these RMAGs communicate to identify and respond to the need. “The culture of mutual assistance is one of the most impressive things in our industry,” Aaronson said.

Hurricane Irma, which has lessened into a tropical storm, has caused more than 6 million people in Florida to lose power, CNN reported. EEI has been in daily contact with Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and senior leaders from the Department of Homeland Security. The first priority, Aaronson said, is safety for both crews and residents. “We want to impress upon the general public the importance of safety,” he said.

The secondary concern is to restore power as soon as possible. “We understand that the product we provide to the American public is critical to their life, health, and safety,” Aaronson said. “We want to be better today than we were yesterday. We want to be better tomorrow than we are today. That is something the industry really takes to heart.”

From forecasted events like hurricanes to sudden events like earthquakes, EEI’s member companies are always learning and planning. “Plans are useless, but planning is everything,” Aaronson said, referencing a quote by Dwight Eisenhower.

Nearly five years ago, when Superstorm Sandy left millions in the Mid-Atlantic without power, EEI ramped up its response by coordinating with federal agencies to restore half of the outages within 48 hours. In 2013, EEI President Tom Kuhn told Associations Now that his group “learned a lot of lessons” from the experience. “The storms coming along these days are more violent and more frequent,” he added. “We have to look at bigger areas where you have to share resources.”

Today, the industry is operating more efficiently because of the relationship between industry and government, Aaronson said. EEI is planning to release two reports detailing lessons from Hurricanes Sandy and Matthew to highlight how the industry-government partnership has developed over the years.

One product of this evolving partnership, the National Response Event, established by EEI and member companies after Superstorm Sandy, helps EEI leverage the resources of all seven RMAGs. Then there’s the CEO-led Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council, which coordinates response between industry and government.

Workers from Delmarva Power pack up to assist with storm recovery after Hurricane Irma. (via EEI's Facebook Page)

Thorne McFarlane

By Thorne McFarlane

Thorne is an assistant editor for Associations Now and a literature buff who loves a great story. Have something interesting to share? Send it his way. MORE

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