Money & Business

Electric Power Industry Takes Command-Center Approach to Hurricane Florence

By / Sep 13, 2018 Scott Aaronson (far left) oversees a meeting in EEI’s hurricane command center on Thursday. (Tim Ebner)

Hurricane Florence poses a severe threat to the Southeast, including coastal and low-lying regions of the Carolinas. As the storm makes landfall, the Edison Electric Institute is working overtime to coordinate 40,000 utility workers who will help to restore power.

Hurricane Florence is taking direct aim at the Southeast, bringing with it the risk of prolonged and extreme flooding, wind damage, and storm surge to several states, including the Carolinas, where the storm is expected to make landfall early Friday.

Whenever a storm of this magnitude threatens the United States, it’s “go-time” for the Edison Electric Institute, says EEI President Tom Kuhn. EEI represents U.S. investor-owned electric companies nationwide, and this week, it has been working overtime to mobilize 40,000 utility workers that stand ready to restore power.

“We have member companies from 17 different states responding to Hurricane Florence,” Kuhn says. “We’ve prepositioned our utility crews to make a quick and coordinated response.”

Part of that disaster planning and response is being driven by a CEO-led Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC) [PDF] that ensures unified communications between industry and government officials.

“Constant situational awareness and communication are key,” Kuhn says. “We’re talking to federal and state authorities, monitoring news reports, and tracking real-time data to adjust our plan.”

All of this work is coordinated from EEI’s headquarters in Washington, DC, where a large conference room serves as a temporary command center. On Thursday, that room was filled with about a dozen EEI staff—operations, communications, and disaster-response specialists who will work an almost around-the-clock schedule during the storm and its aftermath.

This weekend, EEI staff will continue to track Florence’s progress and prepare for the widespread movement of utility workers. The approach was first used during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

“At this point, we’re pretty much a well-oiled machine,” says Scott Aaronson, EEI’s vice president of security and preparedness. “Right up and until Florence’s impact, there will be a lot of positioning to get crews exactly where they need to be.”

Then, utility workers will safely hunker down and wait out the worst. “After that, it’s the business of turning wrenches and restringing wire,” Aaronson says.

EEI has retooled its website homepage to provide information and resources on Florence and is maintaining a social media snapshot to share updates from its storm center and member utility companies.

Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. More »

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