U.S. electric cooperatives prepare for hurricane season

hurricane damage elp

America’s electric cooperatives are preparing for the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season, which begins June 1. Electric 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 affected by hurricanes and tropical storms.

This year the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts “a 70 percent likelihood of 6 to 11 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 3 to 6 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including zero to 2 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher)."

On behalf of the nation’s electric co-ops, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) is working with the Electric Sector Coordinating Council on disaster-related communications and planning.

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 2015 season. On June 24, NRECA members will participate in the Department of Energy’s Clear Path III disaster preparedness exercise.

Many co-ops enter the 2015 hurricane season with new technologies such as smart feeder switching to help reduce outage restoration times and keep their members better informed. Many co-ops post real-time outage information online.

Following massive storms such as the Derecho and Hurricane Sandy, both 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.

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