Davies Consulting

Strategies for Complex Organizations

2016 Emergency Management Excellence Awards

In December 2016, Davies Consulting announced its first-ever Emergency Management Excellence Awards, acknowledging 10 utilities in North America for their innovative practices and exceptional performance in emergency management.

These awards acknowledge leading performers & innovators who are driving the utility industry to improve restoration performance, shorten response times, and enhance collaboration among first responders, utilities, and customers.

Communications Awards

The Emergency Communication Excellence award recognizes a utility that has effectively engaged and communicated with internal and external stakeholders through clear and strategic messaging, channels, tools, and tactics in an ongoing campaign designed to improve customer preparedness, utility outage response, and coordination with community stakeholders before, during, and after emergencies.

Winner: Florida Power & Light / Next Era Comprehensive Emergency Communication Core Plan

Florida Power & Light and its parent company, NextEra Energy have a comprehensive, all-hazards Emergency Communication Core Plan, which enables a unified approach to ensure integrated, one-voice communications that align with the company’s overarching Corporate Emergency Management Plan. This year’s judges dubbed Florida Power & Light’s Core Plan “The Gold Standard” for emergency communications. This utility has implemented leading practices in each category considered essential to communications excellence:

  1. A comprehensive and coherent communications plan;
  2. Clear, compelling, creative message(s) and materials;
  3. Innovative use of technologies;
  4. Effective use of channels, tools, and tactics for communicating before, during, and after outages;
  5. A robust and integrated communication organization that is integrated with the EM organization; and
  6. A one-voice approach.

At FPL, all of these characteristics come together before, during, and after outage response. When a storm or other emergency hits, FPL executes communications in tandem with response operations to enhance performance and also bolster customer relationships.

Runner-Up: Eversource Municipal Liaison Organization

Under pressure following a series of major storms, Eversource established its Community Liaison Organization to personalize communication with communities and municipal officials in 149 towns through its three-state service territory. The liaisons coordinate under ICS structure within the company’s All Hazards Emergency Response Plan and Functional Annexes, including Emergency Oversight & Coordination, Public Information, and External Affairs.

During emergencies, the Community Liaisons gather internal information, coordinate with PIO teams, and disseminate regular briefing sheets to their respective municipalities. In addition to forwarding the briefing sheets, Community Liaisons can be deployed to individual municipalities and are equipped to answer to real-time questions, while the ICS Liaison structure allows for escalating issues through a chain-of-command up to the Liaison Officer and ultimately to the Incident Commander, as necessary. Also, Community Liaisons meet at least once each year in blue-sky conditions with their respective municipality to discuss coordination protocols like procedures for clearing blocked roads and identifying priorities during outages.

All 149 dedicated town liaisons were activated before Superstorm Sandy struck.  They were deployed to work centers and municipal storm rooms, or to areas where the storm’s impact was most devastating. Once there, they provided real-time storm updates to town and community leaders and kept emergency responders, municipal leaders, regulators, and legislators apprised of the restoration efforts in their communities.  This helped the restoration process by relaying important information to the company from local observers concerning key trouble spots, such as blocked roads and downed wires.

Innovation Awards

Leaders in emergency management push boundaries and work toward continuously improving performance.  Success can bear a variety of fruit, providing results like improved response times, more efficient use of resources, or praise from customers and stakeholder groups. Some innovative ideas are the result of extensive self-evaluation, planning, and implementation efforts. Others developed out of necessity and an organic demand for immediate action.

Either way, these Most Innovative Emergency Management Practice Awards recognize utilities that have developed and implemented game-changing advances in the form of strategies, programs, tools, and practices that have enhanced their emergency management capabilities.

Most Innovative Emergency Practice – Storm

Winner: Florida Power & Light

FPL’s suite of Smart Grid applications is used to support improved situational awareness, damage assessment, crew tracking, predictive storm damage modeling, outage communications, real-time resource and operations information, and resource management. Incorporating these technologies into restoration practices and strategies, FPL is about to restore service as safely and quickly as possible.

Runner Up: Avangrid

Through a partnership with Lockheed Martin, Avangrid has developed new technology that allows the utility to collect visual camera and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) imagery to support post-storm damage assessment.

Most Innovative Emergency Practice – All Hazards

Winner: Ameren

During 12 weeks of extended civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, Ameren deployed its new crisis management initiative, using Incident Command Structure (ICS) to monitor and evaluate events and respond effectively to protect company personnel and assets. Throughout the unrest, Ameren’s incident management teams (IMTs) were proactive and enhanced their monitoring capability, prioritizing co-worker safety, both in job-related and other activities.

Runner-Up: San Diego Gas & Electric

San Diego Gas & Electric has advanced its wildfire readiness and response capabilities, including adaptation of weather forecasting tools to better predict fires and mitigate wildfire-related risks.  Using its network of 170+ weather stations, SDG&E monitors wind speed, low-level dryness, and “fuel conditions” as determining factors for the likelihood of wildfire on a given day. This information is shared with internal teams focused on fire suppression and response readiness, as well as local fire & rescue partners.

Best Emergency Response

Actions speak louder than words, and the Best Emergency Response Award is designed to capture just that.  The 2016 awardees executed their established emergency plans and processes to support excellent response operations. Their exceptional preparedness enabled exceptional emergency operations which bore fruit in the form of efficient use of resources, achievement of response & restoration timelines, and excellent communication with customers and stakeholder groups. This year, awards were given for Best Emergency Response Storm and All-Hazards.


Best Emergency Response (Storm): Consolidated Edison, Superstorm Sandy, 2013

During the course of Superstorm Sandy, Con Edison lost five transmission substations and 4,000 MW of generation, and more than 14 underground networks due to flooding. Nearly 70% of its customers were left in the dark, with 1,000 poles, 900 transformers, and about 140 miles of cable lost. Flooding of underground facilities required pre-emptive de-energizing of several steam and gas systems.

Restoration operations were the most extensive ever deployed (or required) by the company, and resource capabilities were tested to their fullest extent, with Con Edison adding more than 5,000 mutual assistance resources from across the U.S. to support the response effort.  In total, over 1 million customers were restored in just over a week.

Best Emergency Response (All-Hazards): Pacific Gas & Electric, Valley Fire, 2015

California’s wildfire seasons have intensified over the last two years, and this award acknowledges exceptional response by PG&E during the Valley Fire, a 2015 wildfire that covered more than 76,000 acres.

Deploying more than 1,700 employees and contractors, PG&E worked effectively with first responders to ensure public safety, restore power, and support the community during the third largest wildfire in California history. Over a period of two weeks, crews worked in difficult terrain and life-threatening situations throughout a emotionally-draining disaster to prevent loss of life among first responders, replace utility assets, provide secondary generation and charging stations for the public, and helped return the community to normalcy.

Runner-Up – Best Emergency Response All Hazards: Southern California Edison, Catalina Island, 2015

The California drought has led to some unusual circumstances for utilities in the state. In 2015, SCE’s water utility operations battled a surprising supply interruption on Catalina Island. The utility was able to protect the health of its customers during a heat wave by delivering potable water while simultaneously conducting effective operations to restore the potable water supply to the remote island. SCE brought together a diverse team of stakeholders to conquer weather and transportation challenges and resolve the crisis efficiently and effectively.

Hero Award

When everyone does their job well, a utility’s emergency response effort is a well-oiled machine.  Sometimes, a team performs exceptionally well under unusual conditions in a way that supports even greater response effectiveness and contributes significantly to improved public safety, employee safety, and improved response.

Southern California Edison’s Fire Management Team: Troy Whitman & Scott Brown

Last year, approximately 300 wildfires occurred throughout SCE territory affecting nearly 60,000 acres including mountainous terrain and federal/state/native lands and national parks, and millions of SCE customers across 13 different counties.

SCE’s Fire Management Team, part of the company’s Business Resiliency department, is at the center of the coordination efforts.  Their presence on the front line ensures that CalOES, Cal Fire, utility partners to the north/south and law enforcement agencies have situational awareness using diagrams/maps regarding SCE’s assets.  On site, accurate information on field conditions regarding SCE infrastructure, assets, facilities, operations and the bulk electric system enables first responders and SCE incident management teams (IMT) to attack the fires, protect facilities, and stay safe during emergency operations.

Scott & Troy have helped their teams to better assess what resources are needed, where/when they are able to safely mobilize, where/when to de-energize, and enabled safe evacuation for SCE employees, which has been crucial to responding to multiple incidents simultaneously in different regions and under extremely dangerous and volatile conditions.