America’s rural electric cooperatives are prepared for the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1. Co-ops own and operate nearly 40 percent of the nation’s electric distribution infrastructure and serve nearly 75 percent of the nation’s landmass, including regions frequently impacted by hurricanes and tropical storms.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts eight to 13 named storms in 2014, with three to six reaching hurricane strength and one or two reaching major hurricane status with sustained winds in excess of 111 mph and the threat of flooding.
“For member-owned, not-for-profit electric co-ops, keeping consumer members safe during storms is absolutely the highest priority,” said National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) CEO Jo Ann Emerson, speaking for more than 900 co-op utilities. “Co-ops located in coastal areas understand that hurricane preparation is key to providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity to their members. They are already educating their members about electrical safety and preparedness using a variety of channels, including social media.”
NRECA experts coordinate with federal agencies including the Department of Energy and the Federal Emergency Management Administration to enhance preparedness initiatives in advance of the 2014 season. On May 28, NRECA’s Martha Duggan and former NRECA Board President Michael Guidry, who experienced several hurricanes as general manager of South Louisiana Electric Cooperative Association, including Katrina and Isaac, participated in the Department of Energy’s Clear Path II hurricane exercise.
Many co-ops enter the 2014 hurricane system with new technologies such as smart feeder switching, upgraded SCADA and AMI to help reduce outage restoration times and keep their members better informed. Many co-ops now post real-time outage information on Facebook pages and websites.
Following massive storms such as the Derecho and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, co-ops provided mutual assistance to sister co-ops and other utilities, sending not only trucks and line crews but also administrative staff and supplies to those affected, often hundreds of miles away. This mutual assistance program stems from cooperative principle number six – “Cooperation Among Cooperatives” – and it is part of the cooperative difference.
In addition to hurricane preparations, co-ops nationwide continually evaluate and improve preparations for challenging weather events that can occur year-round.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.