Penelec prepares employees for storm restoration process during tabletop drill

Published on October 04, 2023 by Liz Carey

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In order to prepare for the coming winter, Penelec, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., held a tabletop exercise recently to prepare its employees on storm restoration processes.

The drill was designed to ready employees on outages caused by severe weather throughout the company’s vast and heavily forested service area, the company said.

Participating both remotely and in-person, the drill participants took on a hybrid approach to practicing restoration activities using electronic storm tools to manage field work. Employees assigned to storm restoration duties ran through activities up to and including restoration processes and storm-management in an effort to get power back on quickly.

“Storm drills provide our employees a controlled forum to practice and sharpen their skills in preparation for severe weather, including thunderstorms packing gusty winds in the summer and snow and ice events in the winter,” said Scott Wyman, president of FirstEnergy’s Pennsylvania operations. “Regular emergency drills are another way we work to improve electric service for our customers, in addition to tree trimming and projects we do to harden our electric infrastructure and enhance its resiliency.”

The drill used a hypothetical “Winter Storm April,” a storm blowing into the state from the southwest, dropping more than 2 feet of snow across Penelec’s service territory over two days starting on a Friday in mid-December.

Company officials said the storm was similar to the type that can impact Penelec customers in winter and spring, and that the drill mimicked severe weather that can topple trees and down power lines. This drill’s storm knocked out electricity to more than 75 percent of the company’s customers. The exercise also mimicked a situation where plows could not keep pace with snow accumulation leading to blocked roads hindering damage assessment and repair efforts.

As part of the training, the company activated its Incident Command System, and followed a formal restoration process and addressed outages by targeting hospitals and other critical facilities, then moving to restore access to the largest number of customers first before moving on to more isolated problems.