In the face of severe weather and other catastrophic incidents, ensuring that critical infrastructure is protected and can be restored quickly is paramount. To help prepare for potential, real-life emergency scenarios ComEd has organized “Operation Power Play 2017,” a statewide drill that will take place on May 18 and 19 in coordination with Ameren Illinois, the City of Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC), the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), People’s Gas, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Will, Cook and DuPage County Departments of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and the United States Army Reserve and more than 50 other state, county, municipal, public and private entities.
“Large-scale exercises, such as Operation Power Play 2017, provide a unique opportunity for these entities to test their ability to integrate with other organizations in response to a challenging scenario. The lessons learned from this exercise will enhance response capabilities throughout Illinois.”
“Here in Chicago we have a strong track record when it comes to planning and responding to extreme weather events and emergency situations,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “One reason is because of a concerted effort by the City’s public safety departments to collaborate with public and private partners, which strengthens their ability to share information, manage on-scene response and allocate resources.”
Operation Power Play 2017 took place at UIC where participating agencies conducted table top exercises and showcased equipment and vehicles that would be used as part of a response. During the exercise, ComEd coordinated a comprehensive, multi-agency response to assist extreme flood-damaged areas with a number of partner agencies participating onsite at Chicago’s OEMC and UIC and remotely at locations all around the state. In addition, a suspicious package removal exercise was conducted at a ComEd substation in coordination with the FBI and Chicago Police Department, as well as a leak of oil from an underwater transmission cable in the Chicago River with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, and the US EPA.
“UIC is honored to be the first university in Chicago to host a statewide Homeland Security Exercise. We welcome the collaborative partnerships with federal, state, local, and private organizations and believe it is vitally important for higher education institutions to take part in comprehensive, integrative emergency planning and preparedness initiatives to make our universities disaster resilient,” said Michael D. Amiridis, UIC Chancellor.
"Effectively managing a crisis situation today requires collaboration between energy companies, first responders and partner agencies," said Richard J. Mark, Chairman and President, Ameren Illinois. "This hands-on exercise brings all of the key players together to refine our emergency response processes and, most importantly, ensure that we're effectively communicating so service can be restored as quickly and safely as possible."
Activities taking place around the state in conjunction with the drill included:
- The State of Illinois is opening their State Emergency Operations Center in Springfield to coordinate State response to flooding throughout the state.
- ChicagoFIRST, an emergency preparedness organization for banking and financial institutions is sharing situational awareness information between its member agencies.
- Argonne National Laboratory will be shutting off power to several buildings, simulating a tornado impact, then will be conducting search and rescue activities throughout those facilities
- The US Army Reserve base in Elwood, IL will be simulating a hazardous materials leak and exercising their evacuation and command procedures
- ComEd is activating four Joint Operations Centers and will work with local municipalities to prioritize their outages
- The Civil Air Patrol is flying overhead and providing real time damage assessment photos and video to participating agencies
- The Chicago Federal Executive Board is here using this exercise to practice their Continuity of Government plans in case of a catastrophic power outage
“Response to major disasters involves multiple state, local and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector,” said James K. Joseph, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. “Large-scale exercises, such as Operation Power Play 2017, provide a unique opportunity for these entities to test their ability to integrate with other organizations in response to a challenging scenario. The lessons learned from this exercise will enhance response capabilities throughout Illinois.”
Following the exercise, participants will meet to review processes, discuss lessons learned and look for opportunities for improvement.