The Emergency Mitigation Journey: Grid Management Key Points

Claretta Dondi

Why Should Emergency Preparedness Matter To Utilities

Emergencies happen—and it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when they do. We live in an increasingly warming world. As global temperatures rise, so do the frequency and intensity of natural disasters.[1] Still, despite best efforts to prevent catastrophes, emergencies happen—and it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when they do.

This unfortunate reality puts utilities in a precarious position. Utility companies bear the responsibility of providing stable power to their customers, even in the direst of circumstances. Underpreparedness comes at a devastating humanitarian cost—one that no utility can afford to pay.

Blog Mastering Utility Emergency Response Graph
Chart: The Federal Emergency Management Agency
Source: FEMA Historical Disaster Declarations

We can look at the recent wildfires on Maui as an example. The blaze, one of the deadliest in U.S. history, claimed 115 lives and laid waste to over 2,000 structures in and around Lahaina. Hawaii’s electric utility acknowledged its role in the catastrophe, revealing that its wooden power poles, constructed to outdated 1960s standards, were well beyond their projected lifespan. To compound matters, they fell far short of meeting the 2002 national standard that power assets should withstand wind speeds of up to 105 miles per hour.[2]

LAHAINA, HAWAII – AUGUST 16: A fire investigator inspects a pole that is believed to be the origin of a deadly wildfire that may have been started when a transformer exploded due to high winds on August 16, 2023 in Lahaina, Hawaii. At least 106 people were killed and thousands were displaced after a wind-driven wildfire devastated the towns of Lahaina and Kula early last week. Crews are continuing to search for missing people. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

To fulfill their duty to customers and protect their communities, utilities must adopt a comprehensive and proactive approach to emergency mitigation. The services they provide—gas, water, heat, and power—are the lifeblood of countless communities. Without dependable access to these services, our society is simply unable to function.

The equation for mitigation is clear: prepare better and respond better.

Let’s explore some of the strategies, technologies, and best practices that empower utilities to navigate the challenges of an ever-changing world, ensuring that they’re ready to keep the lights on and their communities safe.

The Emergency Mitigation Journey: Four Key Points

A robust emergency mitigation process involves four crucial components. Those are:

  1. Grid management, involves activities including grid analysis, hardening the grid to make it more resilient to emergencies (e.g., rewiring or installing underground lines), and ongoing monitoring to identify vulnerabilities.
  2. Risk management, in which utilities assess the risk associated with each individual component of their infrastructure, such as poles and transformers. 
  3. Customer management, which involves efforts to keep customers informed about outages, provide assistance to affected customers and offer support beyond just providing power. 
  4. Work management, providing emergency managers and field supervisors with tools and data to efficiently manage emergency response efforts.

Grid Management

Emergency mitigation and preparation begin with comprehensive grid management. 

Grid management refers to the process of overseeing and maintaining an electrical grid’s complex network of power generation, transmission, and distribution systems. The grid’s individual components work together like cells in an organism: collaborating within a larger, interconnected system, the transmission lines, transformers, generating plants, and substations keep the system alive and energy flowing.

In essence, each asset plays a vital role in contributing to the functioning of the whole, and proper management of those assets is key to proper emergency mitigation. Effective grid management involves three major components:

  • Grid Analysis
  • Grid Hardening
  • Grid Monitoring

Grid Analysis

Grid analysis is the first vital step in ensuring proper grid management.

Grid analysis aims to understand the current state of the grid, identify vulnerabilities, and assess the capacity to meet electricity demand. It involves collecting data on various grid components, including power generation facilities, substations, transformers, power lines, and other critical infrastructure.

Keep in mind that varying grid assets will require individual analysis and action. Things to consider about individual assets while conducting grid analysis for emergency mitigation are:

  • The asset’s location: Is the asset located in a densely-populated city, where it could be prone to theft or vandalism? Is it exposed to high winds in a fire-prone area? Understanding the risks associated with the asset’s physical location is key to properly preparing it to withstand emergencies and prevent outages. 
  • The asset’s age: Is an asset nearing the end of its lifecycle, or was it recently installed? Aging infrastructure requires more immediate attention than newer installs do, as those assets are prone to damage from high winds, fires, and other unforeseen circumstances.

[1]  Penny Gusner, “Natural Disaster Facts And Statistics 2023,” Forbes, June 7, 2023, .,dollar%20climate%20disasters%20per%20year

[2] Jennifer McDermott and Jennifer Sinco Kellher, “Hawaii power utility takes responsibility for first fire on Maui, but faults county firefighters,” Associated Press, August 28, 2023,

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