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One-of-a-Kind Statewide Emergency Exercise Prepares Illinois for Severe Weather and Power-Related Events

Business Wire - Tue Apr 25, 2023

To help ensure that critical infrastructure is protected and operations can be restored quickly when severe weather or other catastrophic events occur, ComEd has organized its fifth statewide drill—the only event of its kind led by an electric company in the U.S.—called “Operation Power Play.” The two-day event will bring together public and private agencies in Illinois to increase collaboration and test coordinated response efforts to significant weather, security and safety scenarios.

The exercise will include 50 state, county, municipal and private entities, including 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, Fermilab, Ameren Illinois and MidAmerican Energy. Over a two-day period, participants will network, explore response equipment and contribute to a variety of emergency response drills throughout the state.

“Severe and destructive weather is expected to increase with climate change, and physical and cyberthreats are on the rise. Operation Power Play takes our preparation efforts further by providing our partners the opportunity to collaborate in advance of potential disasters,” said Terence R. Donnelly, President and COO at ComEd. “We take pride in powering our communities, and that goes beyond keeping the lights on in northern Illinois. We are always preparing for the worst and hoping for the best, and we will continue to take that approach to threats and damage to the power grid.”

Operation Power Play will begin at Soldier Field on Tuesday, April 25, where participating agencies will showcase equipment and vehicles that would be used to respond in an emergency.

“Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) coordinates exercises and workshops with the City’s public safety and infrastructure departments throughout the year to strengthen our ability to share information, manage on-scene response and allocate resources,” said Rich Guidice, Executive Director, OEMC. “Having the opportunity to connect with agency peers, see response equipment firsthand and participate in these drills complement our work to enhance our capabilities and lean forward to improve best practices.”

Together with its participating agencies, ComEd has coordinated 20 emergency response scenarios across the state for Wednesday, April 26, that include substation sabotage, severe weather and flooding, mass generator deployment and power loss. The exercise scenarios range from discussion-based, tabletop style drill to operations-based, full-scale response deployments.

“In large-scare 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 Illinois Emergency Management Agency and Office of Homeland Security (IEMA-OHS) Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau. “With so many drills happening simultaneously, and so many organizations in play, these drills are elevated beyond internal contingency planning discussions and lead to impactful learnings that can support future recovery efforts.”

As substation security continues to be a key topic in the news, ComEd and the OEMC are conducting a closed-door tabletop exercise with the Chicago Fire Department and Chicago Police Department to discuss substation security and procedural response. The team will consider a wide array of substation sabotage scenarios including fire, hazardous material spill and physical damage scenarios such as an active shooter threat.

“Drills of this nature not only reinforce procedural responses but allow increased familiarity and collaboration between the various agencies responsible for recovery,” said Nazia Zakir, Senior Director of Environment, Safety & Health at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory. “Reliable power in the face of an emergency is critical to all businesses, especially Argonne. We are honored to be a part of this drill to help assess state-wide recovery efforts.”

ComEd will test a new pilot program to deploy generators to nursing homes following power loss during severe weather. During storm recovery efforts, ComEd prioritizes critical infrastructure and vulnerable customers—including nursing homes. Partnering with Mather Senior Living Communities in Evanston and Bickford Senior Living in Gurnee, ComEd teams will concurrently deploy generators onsite and review and refine real-world generation hook-up procedures. The findings from these drills are anticipated to aid in storm recovery efforts for ComEd’s vulnerable customers.

Additional drills taking place on April 26 include:

- Ameren Illinois will be activating storm teams in central Illinois to discuss responses to severe weather causing wide-spread outages, including impacts to cell phone infrastructure and customer communication

- Argonne National Lab will be simulating loss of electricity and validating internal coordination and external communication with ComEd.

- City of Evanston will be opening their emergency operations center to simulate damage to the city and loss of communication. They will also be activating an emergency shelter for residents and joint information center to coordinate with ComEd and other first-response agencies.

- Cook County Emergency Management and Regional Security will be coordinating with local municipalities to support their emergency operations center and discuss the management of critical infrastructure restoration with their sector partners.

- DuPageCounty Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management will be supporting base camp staging areas during the drills, ensuring that information on vehicles and assets are available.

- Fermilab will be simulating loss of electricity to their facilities due to severe weather and coordinate with ComEd and Verizon to demonstrate drone capabilities during emergency events.

- Illinois Emergency Management Agency will be deploying vehicles and base camps and opening state emergency operations and business emergency operations centers in central Illinois with Ameren. This drill will discuss the coordination efforts with counties in the area regarding generator deployment prioritization for critical facilities.

- Metropolitan Water Reclamation District will be simulating continuity of operations and maintaining of water distribution throughout the Chicagoland area after loss of power following substation damage.

- MidAmerican Energy will be conducting a tabletop exercise to talk through customer restoration following severe weather in western Illinois. This will include coordinating with external agencies to restore a transmission tower that falls into the Mississippi River during a storm.

- Municipal/County Agencies will be opening joint operations centers (JOCs) in Libertyville, Glenview, Mount Prospect and Oak Forest. The JOCs will be supported by Lake County EMA, Cook County EMRS, Homewood Public Works, Glenview Fire and Mount Prospect EMA.

- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be validating flooding team activation and coordination with local, state and federal partners regarding resource needs and situational awareness.

- Will County Emergency Management Agency will be opening up their emergency operations center to coordinate debris management following a severe weather impact with the Illinois Public Works Mutual Aid Network.

To register for the event and learn more about Operation Power Play, click here.

Participating agencies include: Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital, American Red Cross, Chicago Board of Exchange Global Markets, Chicago Fire Department, Chicago Police Department, ChicagoFIRST, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency Region V, City of Evanston, CME Group, Cook County Emergency management and Regional Security, Edward-Elmhurst Hospitals, Exelon, FEMA Region V, Illinois Commerce Commission, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police, Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System, Illinois Civil Air Patrol, Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois Public Works Mutual Aid Network, Illinois Professional Emergency Management Association, Lake County Emergency Management Agency, Metra, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, Mutual Aid Box Alarm System, Nicor Gas, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service of Chicago/Paducah/Lincoln, NorthShore University Health System, Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, Options Clearing Corporation, Region VII Healthcare Coalition, Region X Healthcare Coalition, Rush Hospital Oak Park, United Airlines, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Village of Gurnee, Verizon, West Suburban Medical Center, Will County Emergency Management Agency and Zebra Technologies Corporation.

Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd) is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corporation (NASDAQ: EXC), the nation’s leading competitive energy provider, with approximately 10 million customers. ComEd provides service to approximately 4 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state’s population. For more information visit ComEd.com, and connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Provided Content: Content provided by Business Wire. The Globe and Mail was not involved, and material was not reviewed prior to publication.

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