The Michigan Municipal Electric Association (MMEA) and MECA recently ran a storm response exercise, in which a major ice storm hit south central Michigan. In the simulation, damage from the storm was widespread and impacted multiple municipal and cooperative utilities across the State.
The exercise dictated that more than 60 crews were requested by seven different utilities. It was the task of the MMEA and MECA mutual aid coordinators to put out the call for help to the other utilities across the state and to ensure coordination among the various requests for crews and the offers to help.
During the exercise, MMEA, MECA and member utilities were able to utilize emerging technologies that are changing the way utilities prepare for and respond to storms, including CommPower’s iNOTiFY alerting and notification tool, as well as Veracity Connect for storm event communication and coordination.
“If this had been an actual emergency,” customers in the affected areas can rest assured that MMEA, MECA and their member utilities are prepared to respond.
Memories of the 2013 ice storm are still fresh and provide reinforcement of the need to ensure that utilities are prepared to respond in a timely fashion. Jim Weeks, MMEA executive director explains “Our member utilities are eager to provide assistance to their neighbors in their time of need. In the event of a localized or large-scale disaster, the network of requesting and responding resources can expand exponentially.”
“While we don’t wish for significant weather events that result in widespread damage and outages, when they do occur, cooperatives utilities consistently demonstrate their preparedness by calling upon our mutual aid networks to restore power to our members,” said Joe McElroy, director of safety for MECA. “The manner in which utilities rally as a larger community to support one another during times of need is one of the strongest attributes of cooperatives — and it’s something we all should be proud of.”
McElroy is very pleased with how successful mutual aid efforts have been between the electric co-ops and municipals, and credited much of it to the use of mutual aid coordinators. “Communication between the MMEA mutual aid coordinators and MECA was very strong,” McElroy reports. “In many cases, we have used cooperative crews on municipal properties and vice versa, during the same mutual aid event.”
“Communicating closely about when the co-ops and munis could help others was key,” he said. It can save time and money getting crews in since they are not being paid to drive to an area only to find that help wasn’t needed after all. “‘Call early and call often’ to let us know what you need is our motto for both the co-ops and munis,” he adds.
The collaborative efforts of MMEA and MECA are a great example of an industry leading, proactive approach to Mutual Aid planning and preparation. By working together, MMEA and MECA create value for their utility members.