JCP&L has completed its annual emergency preparation drill focused on testing its storm restoration process in the event severe weather causes outages throughout its 13-county service area this winter season.
Approximately 55 JCP&L employees from the Operations, Engineering, Safety, Logistics, Communications, External Affairs, Customer Support, Facilities, Corporate Support, and Planning and Analysis groups participated in the emergency preparedness exercise, which was observed by representatives of New Jersey’s Board of Public Utilities (BPU). After two years of virtual drills due to COVID-19, the exercise was held in-person at the company’s Holmdel office.
“There is no such thing as being overprepared for the curveballs Mother Nature can throw our way,” said Jim Fakult, president of JCP&L. “While our crews have had plenty of practice already this year with smaller storm responses, regular emergency drills are another way we work to improve electric service for our customers, in addition to tree trimming and projects that harden our electric infrastructure and enhance its resiliency.”
The drill’s hypothetical scenario focused on “Winter Storm April,” a potent system that dropped more than 2 feet of snow in several areas of JCP&L’s service territory over two days. Widespread wind gusts exceeded 50 miles per hour. The drill’s severe weather toppled trees and damaged power lines, knocking out electricity to more than 75% of JCP&L’s customers. In the exercise, plows could not keep pace with the accumulating snow, leaving numerous roads impassable and slowing crews in their efforts to access damage and make repairs.
During the training, JCP&L activated its Incident Command System (ICS). ICS is a nationally recognized and accepted emergency management structure used by all levels of government, as well as by many non-governmental and private sector organizations, such as JCP&L, to improve coordination and collaboration during major storms or other natural disasters.
As part of the collaboration with local governments, JCP&L officials have met with representatives of the offices of emergency management in the counties that make up the company’s 1.1-milllion customer service area.
In the aftermath of a major weather event, JCP&L crews follow a formal restoration process and typically address outages that restore the largest number of customers before moving to more isolated problems. They generally prioritize hospitals and other critical medical facilities, communications facilities and emergency response agencies. After that, crews work to restore power as quickly as possible to the rest of the customers.
“Our teams are always at the ready and follow a prescribed process when storms are in the forecast,” said Fakult. “Preparation is important for us, and as the winter season nears, our customers should start to make sure their families are prepared as well.”