Mutual Aid Program5 min read
Quick to respond in the aftermath of ice storms, tornadoes, wind storms and hurricanes, AMP’s Mutual Aid Program has been effectively providing service-restoration assistance to stricken member communities since 1984.
Those in the industry know public power crews are unsung heroes of the community. Through AMP’s Mutual Aid program, crews help save the day for member communities throughout AMP’s footprint.
The Mutual Aid Program arose from the concept of neighbor helping neighbor to support each other in the event an overwhelming need arises. The program started in 1984 on the foundation that a network of municipal electric systems can quickly and effectively provide needed assistance to other member municipal systems when utility emergencies occur that cannot be handled by one system alone. The very next year, Mutual Aid was put to the test and became a proven program following the 1985 Newton Falls E5 tornado.
“The work of the original members of the mutual aid committee in the 1980s is the footprint that has led to the success of the program today,” said Wadsworth Manager of Electric and Communications Gene Post, who is also AMP Gold Sector Coordinator and Mutual Aid Committee Chairman.
Pete Giacomo, former manager of electric and communications at Wadsworth and mutual aid chairman for AMP, was part of the five-man committee, led by John Curtain of Bryan, that created the Mutual Aid program.
“It’s something I’m proud of,” Giacomo said. “We set it up because it was something that was needed – and it really works.”
The Mutual Aid program enhances the quality of municipal utility services to member communities’ customers, and fosters and strengthens relationships among members and AMP.
Giacomo said smaller communities shouldn’t shy away because they think they wouldn’t have the crews to send help in a crisis.
“It doesn’t matter, because they may need help,” he said.
Communities only have to make one phone call and tell a dispatcher at AMP what they need.
“The Mutual Aid agreement is essentially an insurance policy,” said AMP’s Assistant Vice President of Technical Services Michelle Palmer. “It provides members access to a network of crews when a local utility experiences outages too widespread to be handled alone.”
The agreement is set up to allow interstate mutual aid, eliminate the need for individual agreements between communities, and maintain existing policies and procedures (including rates to be charged). Members pay and are paid the normal rates of pay for employees helping in the effort.
The AMP Mutual Aid agreement also provides a coordinator for the help to be dispersed when needed. Eighty-four participating member communities in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and West Virginia are divided into mutual aid sectors, each with a coordinator who is responsible for organizing emergency response efforts.
“The coordinator will gather data from all sources – including the AMP Energy Control Center – concerning the extent of the damage, estimate the amount of the workers needed to repair it, and contact AMP members to obtain the necessary workers and supplies, and direct the support efforts,” said Post.
Communities in or near the sector provide back-up coordination and management.
“The mutual aid agreement doesn’t cost anything to sign. It provides a network of lineworkers similar to those that are requesting aid,” Palmer said. “Communities should belong because it allows them to provide excellent customer service by getting and keeping the lights on.”
For 2012, Mutual Aid played an important role in helping AMP members keep the lights on during two major storms.
An intense windstorm, known as a derecho, blew through the Great Lakes and into the Mid-Atlantic areas of the United States at the end of June. Storm winds in excess of 80 mph downed trees and power lines, and left millions in the dark. Five member communities – New Martinsville, Ohio City, Piqua, Wapakoneta and Westerville – took advantage of AMP’s Mutual Aid program and crews worked through a record-breaking heat wave to restore service to customers.
The City of Piqua was hit hard by the storm on June 29. Ed Krieger, Piqua power system director, said there were six 75-foot poles lying across railroad tracks. Tipp City and Hudson came to the rescue. A 12-man crew worked until 3 the following morning with mutual aid assistance to help clean up the railway, according to Krieger.
He said the program is definitely beneficial.
“It’s always good to know that other members are there, and willing and able to help out,” he said. “We would have had customers out for longer periods of time if it weren’t for the Mutual Aid Program.”
Just a few months later in late October, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the eastern United States. Flooding and strong winds crippled many cities in Sandy’s path, including a number of AMP member communities.
The storm converged with a cold-weather system as it moved inland, which brought significant snow to portions of West Virginia. Philippi – which suffered from wet snow, extensive tree damage and widespread power outages – was assisted through AMP’s Mutual Aid program. Piqua crews offered their support and were able to help restore service to Philippi customers.
Krieger said communities should consider the Mutual Aid program now because they are better off to be prepared and familiar with the program before there is a crisis.
“I don’t see how you can operate without having that mutual aid network supporting your organization,” he said.
Crews from Cleveland, Hamilton, Hubbard, Hudson, Wadsworth and Westerville all stepped up to provide assistance outside the AMP footprint to help FirstEnergy and its customers in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
“The volunteers have made this program work,” Post said.
Since the Mutual Aid Program’s foundation, communities have reliably been there for each other in times of emergency. Other recent Mutual Aid occurrences include 2008 Hurricane Ike; 2008/2009 ice storms; 2011 Celina tornado; and 2011 Tipp City wind storm. And as any good hero does, crews worked until the crisis was resolved –restoring peace to the cities in need every time.