West Penn Power Conducts Annual Storm Restoration Drill to Help Employees Prepare for Severe Weather Events

2021 tabletop drill goes virtual to protect participants from coronavirus
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GREENSBURG, Pa. – West Penn Power, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE), recently completed its yearly emergency preparation drill focused on testing its storm restoration process in the event severe weather causes outages throughout its vast and largely rural service area.

West Penn Power conducted the drill virtually to align with its pandemic protocol, which includes not gathering for large in-person meetings to safeguard employees from the coronavirus. During the past year, West Penn Power employees have conducted storm calls and used electronic storm tools remotely to successfully manage restoration activities in the field.

The drill was designed to prepare employees assigned to storm restoration duties and review restoration processes and storm-management tools critical to safely and quickly getting the lights back on. The hypothetical scenario focused on a powerful storm front that swept into western Pennsylvania from Ohio, spawning three tornados that touched down in the company’s service area. The tornados caused severe localized damage in Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties, toppling trees, closing roads and disrupting power to thousands of customers.

“This is a great opportunity for us to practice and sharpen our skills in preparation for thunderstorms and even the occasional tornado as we head into summer months,” said John Rea, regional president of West Penn Power. "Periodic emergency drills are another way we invest in reliability for our customers, in addition to the tree trimming and the continuous work we do to harden our electric distribution infrastructure and enhance its resiliency.”

As part of the training, West Penn Power used its Incident Command System (ICS). ICS is a nationally recognized and accepted emergency management process used by all levels of government – federal, state and local – as well as by many non-governmental organizations and the private sector to coordinate the response to major storms or other natural disasters.

 One of the simulated tornados damaged West Penn Power’s Greensburg headquarters, rendering it inoperable and injuring key operations personnel. That necessitated rotating different employees into storm management leadership roles and using alternate company facilities to dispatch crews and control the regional electrical system.

Among the opportunities for improvement identified by the West Penn Power drill:

  • Specify in greater detail within the business continuity plan capabilities of secondary locations if West Penn Power’s Greensburg headquarters is inoperable   
  • Refine the communications process with families of employees when company facilities are impacted  

    West Penn Power serves approximately 734,000 customers in 24 counties within central and southwestern Pennsylvania. Follow West Penn Power on Twitter @W_Penn_Power and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WestPennPower.

FirstEnergy is dedicated to integrity, safety, reliability and operational excellence. Its 10 electric distribution companies form one of the nation's largest investor-owned electric systems, serving customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland and New York. The company’s transmission subsidiaries operate approximately 24,000 miles of transmission lines that connect the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions. Follow FirstEnergy on Twitter @FirstEnergyCorp or online at www.firstenergycorp.com.

CONTACT: Todd Meyers, (724) 838-6650

Last Modified: May 20, 2021