Prepping for winter

Utility conducts simulated five-day storm


November 10, 2022 | View PDF


An annual drill for the staff of the Eugene Water & Electric Board aimed to improve winter response results.

EUGENE: Imagine if heavy snowfall and freezing rain hit the area this winter. Imagine damaged trees, road closures, and widespread power outages.

What would you do?

The Eugene Water & Electric Board's electric division and emergency management staff imagined that exact scenario last week during a mock winter storm power outage drill that is conducted every year. More than 60 staff members participated in the drill that simulated a five-day storm scenario where power was lost to over 18,000 customers.

The thought of such a widespread outage can be alarming, but it's a reality people can't ignore. There was an ice storm in December 2016 and the February "snowpocalypse" of 2019 that dumped 18-plus inches of snow. Both left thousands of homes without power for days.

Living in the Pacific Northwest means beautiful landscapes and a full range of seasonal weather, including extreme weather events. What can be done to combat extreme winter storms? Be prepared.

The drill conducted last week was named the "Blue Sky Drill" and is an annual practice ahead of the winter storm season. Just as they would in a real emergency event, staff activated an Incident Command System, a standardized approach to incident management used by government agencies at all levels. Roles and teams are established for safety, planning, operations, logistics, interagency coordination, and public communication. Each team works simultaneously to coordinate and resolve issues that arise during emergency response.

The drill helps identify gaps in plans and training, develop skills, reveal resource needs, and improve internal and external coordination. It enables staff to test their skills and practice working together across all departments to handle a large-scale outage restoration.

"A part of preparing for storm season is a shift in our frame of mind to align with the shift in seasons," said Tyler Nice, EWEB electric operations manager. "I think this drill helped us activate that mindset across the utility by working towards a common goal, finetuning our processes, and identifying areas of improvement before we are faced with an actual storm."

Emergency management partners from Lane County and the City of Eugene also participated in the drill. Their insights helped improve our multi-agency coordination with road, tree, and emergency management processes.

Running through a mock widespread outage is just one way that EWEB is preparing for the possibility of a weather-related incident. We are also replacing aging infrastructure and developing redundant power and water sources. Focusing on emergency preparedness and response will always be a strategic priority for EWEB as we continue to provide safe and reliable electricity and water to customers.

Here are a few ways you can prepare your home and family ahead of winter:

° Store 14 gallons of water per person (one gallon per person, per day, is enough for two weeks)

° Stock up on nonperishable food for the entire family

° Build an emergency kit for your vehicle

° Stock up on batteries and power banks to recharge cell phones and other electronic devices

° Buy a battery-powered radio

° Join EWEB's Pledge to Prepare


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