2024 National Response Event Tabletop Exercise held by investor-owned utilities invited over 100 individuals from Edison Electric Institute (EEI), government agencies, industry associations, and several electric utility partners – including representatives from MECA. This is one of the “Big 3” disaster response forums held each year – the others held by municipalities through APPA and NRECA with a focus on electric cooperatives.

“These conferences, whether happening on regional, state, or national level, are making sure participants are familiar with the agencies, various roles and responsibilities that are part of a real-life disaster scenario,” said MECA Director of Safety Joe McElroy. “A big part of the activity is to identify areas of improvement and prepare for the unknowable.”

In 2018, just three weeks after a similar tabletop exercise was played out with an “imaginary” wildfire in California, followed by heavy rain and mudslides, the Paradise Fire happened. The small California town was leveled by the speed and ferocity of the fire, with nearly all homes having been built before the implementation of fire-resistant improvements to the state’s revised building codes in 2008.

While emergency response planners couldn’t have fully anticipated the reality of what happened in Paradise, many steps were taken to improve preparedness procedures. Those in Paradise and state-wide emergency management organizations, used the lessons learned through the response event to encourage cities and counties in California to revisit their own disaster plans and learn from the hard lessons of Paradise.