Storm drills prepare Mon Power workers for emergencies, put restoration process to test

Published on June 13, 2024 by Chris Galford

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Mon Power of West Virginia recently gathered its employees for an annual emergency preparation drill that sought to reinforce their roles during severe weather and test the company’s restoration process in the event of outages.

“Storm drills provide our employees a controlled, no-fault forum to practice and sharpen their skills in preparation for severe weather,” Jim Myers, president of FirstEnergy’s West Virginia Operations, said. “These exercises also support service reliability for our customers, in addition to tree trimming and projects that harden our electric infrastructure and enhance its resiliency.”

Mon Power is a subsidiary of FirstEnergy, with more than 395,000 customers across 34 West Virginia counties. Preparations took place at its Fairmont headquarters, pitting workers against a primary scenario where powerful June thunderstorms brought in gusts exceeding 70 mph, toppling trees, crippling power poles and lines, and disrupting electric service to more than 270,000 customers in the process. Not intending to make things easier for test takers, Mon Power also included significant damage to multiple electric substations several days prior to the storm.

With all of that factored in, drill participants had to work out restoration while preparing for additional severe weather. They separated into groups to tackle everything from safety and logistics, to planning and analysis. The company’s Incident Command System (ICS) was activated, tapping an emergency management process used by all levels of government and various non-governmental organizations and private sector entities for disaster response.

Mon Power reported that the crews followed protocol to restore power to the largest number of customers first. Priority was generally given to hospitals and other critical medical facilities, communication facilities and emergency response agencies, before moving on to more general power restoration, providing and instilling proof of concept.