Texas is prone to a wide array of extreme weather. Within the past eight months, the state faced ice storms and flooding. Electric companies across Texas maintain emergency preparedness plans for all types of weather, and maintain crisis response teams to quickly act on any emergencies and, if necessary, emergencies in other parts of the state or country. In the case of the more recent ice storms, power plant operators took specific actions in the weeks leading up to the cold front to ensure Texans maintained power amid freezing temperatures.
With winter over and temperatures rising, it is time to turn our attention to hurricane preparedness. Hurricane season runs June 1 through the end of November and according to officials from the National Weather Service, now is the time to begin preparing. Fortunately, electric service providers monitor weather threats 24/7, 365 days a year and remain in a state of readiness.
Researchers at Colorado State University predict a “quiet” 2014 hurricane season, although the official forecast for the season from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will not be available until closer to June. The meteorologists who released this study say El Niño conditions over the Pacific Ocean and cooler water temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean are two factors that contribute to their less stormy prediction.
2013 Tropical Storm Tracks compiled by Colorado State University Researchers
Nonetheless, electric companies all have Emergency Restoration Plans in the event of a hurricane and are committed to restoring all power as quickly and efficiently as possible, with and emphasis on safety for both workers and customers. Each company performs detailed storm drills as well as reviews after actual activations of their emergency plans. Process revisions are made based on lessons learned in order to better prepare for future emergency events.
In the event of a storm, crews are readied to deploy as soon as it is deemed safe and once deployed, the crews conduct damage assessment, which can often take several days depending on the extent of damage. The repair and reconstruction of substations, transmission and distribution lines is followed by the repair to individual services. These companies perform reviews after actual activations of their emergency plans and make revisions based on lessons learned in order to better prepare for future emergency events.
In addition to linemen and local contractors, an emergency plan typically includes many company employees – even those who do not traditionally work in the field. These emergency plans also include “mutual assistance” agreements where electric utility workers from outside of Texas come and help restore power
Finally, electric companies work to keep customers informed on the status of outages and restoration efforts through a variety of channels including company websites, smart phone apps, social media updates and proactive text messages. This type of communication will vary by provider.
At the end of the day, an electric provider’s emergency plan is to safely restore service to its customers – quickly and efficiently. Look for more detail on electric companies’ emergency preparedness programs later this month.