ComEd Leads Its First-Ever Statewide Emergency Drill

More than 30 organizations and 130 communities to participate in simulated severe weather

Jul 11, 2013, 11:00 ET from ComEd

CHICAGO, July 11, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- In the face of increasingly severe and damaging weather across the country, ComEd today is gathering more than 30 state, county, municipal and private entities at Joliet Junior College for its first-ever statewide emergency drill.  The event will help participants work collaboratively to better prepare and train for restoration in the event of a "worst-case" weather event in Illinois.

"Recent devastating tornados in Oklahoma and Texas, and Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast underscore the need to better understand how we work together to restore critical services following an extreme weather event," said Terence R. Donnelly, executive vice president and chief operating officer, ComEd. "Through this event, ComEd is building on its 60 storm process enhancements made in 2012 to further improve storm restoration and recovery for our customers."

Under the drill's simulated scenario, multiple tornados will touch down within Northern Illinois, causing power outages to 1.5 million customers, which would be about 40 percent of all ComEd customers--more than have ever been affected by an actual storm. Working collaboratively, participants will determine the actions needed to restore critical services to the affected areas. In addition to ComEd, participants include Nicor Gas, Comcast, AT&T, Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Illinois State Police, and Cook, Will, Lake, Kane, Boone and DuPage County Offices of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

"We cannot wait for severe weather to hit to begin the discussion around restoration of critical services," said Jonathon Monken, director, Illinois Emergency Management Agency. "By having these agencies work together in advance to develop and practice collaborative processes, this drill will help Illinois be better prepared in the face of a catastrophe, like the one recently faced in Oklahoma."

Below are some of the activities that will be conducted as part of the drill:

  • The ComEd operations team will engage the company's mobile operations center, which houses 25 engineers, dispatchers and other key storm response team members and is fully equipped with the latest communications, satellite and video conferencing technology.
  • The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) will deploy its mobile Business Emergency Operations Center (BEOC) for the first time.  During the drill, the mobile BEOC will house private industry representatives from the weather-affected, geographic locations to share a common operating picture and coordinate response integration with these partners. 
  • During the drill, Illinois will address strategic command and control recommendations through the utilization of components of the State Incident Response Center (SIRC) during this emergency to coordinate resources for response efforts. 
  • The Will County Emergency Management Agency will be deploying its Mobile Incident Command Center.  Additional Will County agencies that will play a role in this exercise, and which will be stationed inside the command center, are the Will County Sheriff's Office and Highway Departments and the Channahon Police and Fire Departments.  Under a unified command structure, these agencies will discuss, work through, and respond to specific operational and logistical situations in managing a catastrophic weather event. 
  • The Citgo refinery in Lemont will perform an exercise with ComEd officials simulating a complete power loss to the facility.
  • ComEd is simultaneously opening six of its joint operating centers (JOCs) to simulate response coordination with local municipalities in the affected areas. More than 130 communities are represented by the six JOCs participating in the drill. ComEd introduced JOCs last year as one of its storm process improvements. At each JOC, typically located within a county building, ComEd interfaces with municipal officials to prioritize restoration of critical facilities, like police and fire stations, hospitals and senior centers.

In 2012, ComEd introduced 60 enhancements to its storm processes, which significantly improved restoration times during major storms. Earlier this year, ComEd hosted a storm restoration symposium featuring utilities from around the country sharing storm response best practices to enhance operational performance and customer service.

Following today's drill, ComEd and other participants will meet to review processes, discuss lessons learned and look for opportunities for improvement.

"This drill is not a one-day event. It is the beginning of an ongoing dialogue to improve our collective ability to respond to significant storm damage to our communities," said Donnelly. "We are always seeking new opportunities to work more effectively with state, federal and local entities to improve our storm response and benefit customers."

Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd) is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corporation (NYSE: EXC), the nation's leading competitive energy provider, with approximately 6.6 million customers. ComEd provides service to approximately 3.8 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state's population.