ComEd conducts statewide power outage preparation drill

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ComEd is gathering more than 30 state, county, municipal and private entities at Joliet Junior College for its first-ever statewide emergency drill. The event will help participants work collaboratively to better prepare and train for outage restoration in the event of a "worst-case" weather event in Illinois.

Under the drill's simulated scenario, multiple tornados will touch down within Northern Illinois, causing power outages to 1.5 million customers, which would be about 40 percent of all ComEd customers — more than have ever been affected by an actual storm.

Working collaboratively, participants will determine the actions needed to restore critical services to the affected areas. In addition to ComEd, participants include Nicor Gas, Comcast, AT&T, Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Illinois State Police, and Cook, Will, Lake, Kane, Boone and DuPage County Offices of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

"Recent devastating tornados in Oklahoma and Texas, and Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast underscore the need to better understand how we work together to restore critical services following an extreme weather event," said Terence R. Donnelly, executive vice president and chief operating officer, ComEd. "Through this event, ComEd is building on its 60 storm process enhancements made in 2012 to further improve storm restoration and recovery for our customers."

The ComEd operations team will engage the company's mobile operations center, which houses 25 engineers, dispatchers and other key storm response team members and is fully equipped with the latest communications, satellite and video conferencing technology.

During the drill, Illinois will address strategic command and control recommendations through the utilization of components of the State Incident Response Center (SIRC) during this emergency to coordinate resources for response efforts.

The Will County Emergency Management Agency will be deploying its Mobile Incident Command Center. Additional Will County agencies that will play a role in this exercise, and which will be stationed inside the command center, are the Will County Sheriff's Office and Highway Departments and the Channahon Police and Fire Departments. Under a unified command structure, these agencies will discuss, work through, and respond to specific operational and logistical situations in managing a catastrophic weather event.

The Citgo refinery in Lemont will perform an exercise with ComEd officials simulating a complete power loss to the facility.

ComEd is simultaneously opening six of its joint operating centers (JOCs) to simulate response coordination with local municipalities in the affected areas. More than 130 communities are represented by the six JOCs participating in the drill. ComEd introduced JOCs last year as one of its storm process improvements. At each JOC, typically located within a county building, ComEd interfaces with municipal officials to prioritize restoration of critical facilities, like police and fire stations, hospitals and senior centers.

In 2012, ComEd introduced 60 enhancements to its storm processes, which significantly improved restoration times during major storms. Earlier this year, ComEd hosted a storm restoration symposium featuring utilities from around the country sharing storm response best practices to enhance operational performance and customer service.

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