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Illinois Statewide Emergency Exercise Prepares Agencies for Severe Weather

ComEd brings more than 70 organizations together today to prepare for worst-case scenarios

To help ensure that critical infrastructure is protected and can be restored quickly when severe weather or other catastrophic events occur in Illinois, ComEd has organized a statewide drill – the only exercise of its kind led by a power company in the U.S. Called “Operation Power Play,” the drill will test how agencies coordinate in the face of a significant weather or manmade event.

The drill involves more than 50 state, county, municipal and private entities, such as the City of Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC), Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), DuPage County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Argonne National Laboratory, Peoples Gas, North Shore Gas, Illinois Institute of Technology (Illinois Tech), Ameren Illinois and MidAmerican Energy.

“We see news stories every day about natural disasters and physical or cyberattacks that could affect infrastructure, including the energy grid, that families and businesses depend on every day,” said Joe Dominguez, CEO of ComEd. “This exercise gives us the chance to cooperate with municipal and governmental officials and our partner energy companies to make sure we’re prepared to respond safely to emergencies and protect the people of Illinois.”

Operation Power Play will take place at Illinois Tech, where participating agencies will conduct table top exercises and showcase equipment and vehicles that would be used to respond to an emergency. During the exercise, ComEd will coordinate a comprehensive, multiagency response to simulated disasters, including extreme flooding and related damage and a cyberattack. Partner agencies will participate onsite and remotely at locations throughout the state.

"Here in Chicago, our public safety departments participate in exercises all year long to strengthen their ability to share information, manage on-scene response and allocate resources,” said OEMC Executive Director Rich Guidice. “This exercise complements our work to enhance our capabilities, improve collaboration and develop best practices."

"We are excited to be able to host this year's Operation Power Play exercise here on Illinois Tech's historic Mies van der Rohe Campus," said Alan W. Cramb, President of Illinois Institute of Technology. "Today's exercise not only allows us the chance to help convene our partners across the public and private sector, but it also provides us with an opportunity to showcase the leading-edge work being done in energy, infrastructure, and network communication at Illinois Tech each and every day."

"In large-scale disasters or emergency events, it is critically important that the key public and private responders are well coordinated and able to communicate quickly and effectively," said Richard J. Mark, Chairman and President, Ameren Illinois. "Participating in a simulation like this one helps us prepare to meet any challenges we may face."

Activities taking place across the state as part of the drill will include:

  • Metropolitan water Reclamation District – simulated plane crash and damage to Stickney Water reclamation Plant
  • CyrusOne (data facility for Chicago Mercantile Exchange) – loss of transmission tower and customer- owned substation, on backup generation, fuel shortage, security breach
  • Lake County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) – opening their emergency operations center and a joint operations center, full-scale exercise
  • MidAmerican Energy – opening their emergency operations center and responding to simulated record flooding in Davenport, Ia., and Rock Island, Ill.
  • American Water – responding to tornado damage to their pump station in Belleville, Ill.
  • Ameren – flying drones in DuPage County as a cross-organizational damage assessment resource
  • Comcast and Verizon – testing impacts to physical tower infrastructure south of Interstate 80
  • Wilbur Wright College – simulating blackout to campus and restoration plan in conjunction with ComEd and its Exelon sister energy companies PECO, PHI and BGE
  • Rush University and Medical Center, and Illinois Tech – responding to tornadic damage
  • Aqua Illinois, City of Rochelle, ComEd, MidAmerican Energy, Rush University – exercising responses to cyber-attacks
  • 14 emergency operations centers will open – Air National Guard, American Water, Comcast, ComEd, CyrusOne, DuPage County, IEMA (SEOC, BEOC), Lake County EMA, MidAmerican Energy, MWRD, OEMC, Verizon, Walmart

“Partnerships between government agencies and the private sector allow communities to respond and recover faster following disasters,” said Acting IEMA Director, Alicia Tate-Nadeau. “I applaud our private sector partners for their dedication to preparedness. Preparing today for the disasters of tomorrow will ensure Illinois is ready to respond to all types of hazards, anywhere in our state.”

Following the exercise, participants will meet to review processes, discuss learnings and look for opportunities for improvement.

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