Electric co-ops effectively respond to disasters
Article was added on Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Last winter, the ice storm that hit our state
ravaged our electric distribution systems. We were fortunate to
receive assistance from our fellow electric cooperatives around the
state and region. That's the way the co-op network work.
Disasters, whether caused by nature, accidents or hostile acts,
exact an enormous cost, both in economic and human terms. Electric
cooperatives, like Santee Electric Cooperative, have a unique and
effective approach to emergency management and disaster recovery:
mutual assistance. Following a disaster, co-ops will rapidly deploy
support staff and equipment to emergency and recovery zones to
assist sister co-ops.
Because the national network of transmission and distribution
infrastructure owned by electric cooperatives has been built to
federal standards, line crews from any co-op in America can arrive
on the scene ready to provide emergency support, secure in their
knowledge of the system's engineering.
We work closely with other first responders, state and local
government and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to
ensure an effective and coordinated response in the event of an
Since cooperatives are not-for-profit organizations, we are
eligible for financial assistance from FEMA, which can fund a major
portion of the cost of emergency work to restore power and the cost
of repairing, restoring, rebuilding or replacing damaged
This system gives electric cooperatives the ability to respond
effectively and quickly in times of crisis and protects the
financial interests of the cooperative members as the same
Unfortunately, with tighter budgets, securing FEMA reimbursements
after a disaster has become more difficult. Following Superstorm
Sandy, Congress changed the rules: FEMA now allocates funds for
rebuilding based on an estimate of costs, not on the actual cost.
If the estimate is higher than the actual cost, the excess funds
must be used for FEMA-approved projects. But if the estimate is
low, the co-op must pay the difference.
Electric cooperatives across the country learn from disasters. We
learn how to protect our systems better, and we learn how to become
more resilient. When it comes to resiliency, we have a good story
to tell. We serve our member-consumers in the most rugged, remote
terrain in the country. And we have learned how to restore power in
extremely difficult circumstances.
While I know better than to make any predictions about what Mother
Nature has in store for us, I believe these lessons will help us
the next time disaster strikes.
Floyd L. Keels
President and Chief Executive Officer
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