Emergency action planning is boring… until you have an emergency

Posted in: Energy, Environmental, Water

A wildfire adjacent to your project could be a scenario you test during EAP exercises.
A wildfire adjacent to your project could be a scenario you test during EAP exercises.

How do I respond to unprecedented rainfall, devastating wildfires, hurricane force winds, an earthquake or security breach?  You don’t want to be asking yourself this question when the situation arises. If you operate a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission-licensed hydropower project you are required to develop and maintain an Emergency Action Plan or EAP. But how do you know if the plan will work when you need it?

To make sure that you and everyone with responsibilities for emergency response knows what to do, FERC requires you to exercise your EAP every five years. Mandated exercises can include tabletop, functional or full-scale emergency simulations.

This is a great time of year to begin planning for 2019 exercises because the most important element of a successful exercise is participation. Thinking ahead and planning exercises around spring flows, summer operations or late season fires can have a significant impact on who is able to take part in the exercise. Participation by those agencies on your notification flowchart is the single biggest contributor to a successful test of your plan. You want to be sensitive of the time commitment being made by each participant so seasonal awareness and consideration of single or multiple-date exercises is important.

In addition to making sure you have the highest possible level of participation it’s important to consider:

  • the facility where you hold the exercises,
  • the pace and flow of the exercises themselves,
  • making sure you have a facilitator who understands your project and
  • a very organized and detail-oriented support team.

The last thing you want is for something to be missing when you’re faced with a room of 30–50 people ready for action. It’s also critical to carefully test a realistic dam failure scenario so that your operations personnel buy into the exercise. Your operators are the key internal audience and benefit most when they can react as they would in an actual emergency. Finding a failure scenario that is realistic yet fits within the time constraints of the exercise can make or break the day.

So start thinking now about your 2019 tests to ensure they are a success. And don’t forget the most important part of planning for successful EAP exercises – lots of good coffee, donuts and a refreshing lunch.

Carson Mettel, PE

About the Author

Carson Mettel, P.E., is Mead & Hunt’s National Market Leader for Dams and Hydropower. He has 35+ years of experience working with water resources, dams and hydro power projects. In his hours away from work, Carson is a pie connoisseur and enjoys biking, two interests that definitely complement each other.

Read more posts by Carson Mettel, PE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *