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How Does That Work?

Mutual aid

December 10, 2018 | Jason Kuiper | how does that work, public power, restoration
oppd workers
WHAT IS IT?

Mutual aid is an agreement through which other utilities offer their restoration services after natural disasters strike and cause widespread power outages. OPPD has been on both sides of the aisle.

mutual aid network
A crew from Loup Public Power District lend a hand in the restoration efforts in the south rural area of OPPD’s service territory during the June story that struck the Omaha metro area. Photo by Andrew Roger/OPPD

Several times, OPPD has needed mutual aid crews to help with restorations. Crews from as far away as Alabama came to help OPPD restore power after the June 16, 2017 storm and tornadoes, which knocked out power to 76,500 at its peak.

Before that storm, OPPD last received aid after a June 27, 2008 windstorm. OPPD crews went to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area in the summer of 2015 to help after thunderstorms damaged that area.

OPPD crews also responded to Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. In fact, it was Hurricane Sandy that led to changes in how mutual aid works, said Ryan Mayberry, manager of OPPD’s Elkhorn Service Center.

Sandy, which struck the East Coast in October 2012, left millions in 21 states without power. It was clear the industry needed a national response plan, in addition to response on a regional level. The largest utilities in the country belong to the greater National Mutual Assistance Resource Team, and within that group are regional groups.

OPPD trucks line up in Tampa, Fla., part of the mutual aid deployed to restore power following a hurricane.
Helping others

OPPD belongs to the Midwest Mutual Assistance Group, through which OPPD crews were sent to Florida. Mayberry said OPPD, like many other utilities, belong to multiple mutual aid networks.

OPPD also belongs to: Public Power Mutual Aid Network, which is tied to the American Public Power Association; Edison Electric, which covers the investor-owned utilities; Nebraska Mutual Aid; and a one-on-one agreement with Colorado Springs Utilities in Colorado, among others.

Mayberry said in each mutual aid situation, workers are paid by the host utility that is requesting the aid.

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About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He is a former staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald, where he covered a wide range of topics but spent the majority of his career covering crime. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and has also appeared in several true crime documentary shows. In his free time he enjoys cooking, spending time with his wife and three children, and reading crime novels.

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