This year, meteorological authorities anticipate a hurricane season that is more active than normal. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center forecasts a likely range of thirteen to nineteen named storms, of which six to ten could become hurricanes, including three to six major hurricanes. The coronavirus pandemic further complicates the challenges that lie in the months ahead, necessitating extra precautions during response and restoration activities.
The Department of Energy’s (DOE) strong record supporting energy sector emergency preparedness and response–coupled with its persistent role in the national coronavirus response since day one of the crisis–have readied it to safely facilitate the restoration of energy systems while protecting public health as the 2020 hurricane season comes underway.
Through its Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response, DOE fulfills the federal government’s duties to help mitigate emergency incidents’ impacts of on energy systems and to provide sector-specific guidance during restoration. Under the Emergency Support Function #12 Annex of the National Response Framework, DOE is tasked during emergencies with:
- providing technical expertise to industry, other partner agencies, and local, state, tribal, and territorial governments, conducting field assessments as needed,
- evaluating and sharing information on impacts to energy systems, estimating the effect of outages within affected areas, and assessing potential state, regional, and national impacts,
- assisting in overcoming the challenges associated with restoration of the energy system, and
- providing information concerning the status of energy restoration efforts.
When a forming hurricane is identified, DOE dispatches responders to threatened regions to help industry and local counterparts identify issues that might distress safe and efficient restoration and holds pre-disaster calls with state and industry partners to identify issues that may require federal support. As affected regions weather the storm, DOE issues daily situation reports to provide near real-time analysis of the storm’s impacts. Post-disaster, deployed responders provide on-the-ground expertise for restoring energy systems to full capacity while DOE leadership holds daily calls with affected members of the sector and federal response partners to ensure a unified response effort.
Like most activities, the pandemic has changed the way emergency managers must consider preparation and response. Under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) guidance for adapting emergency operations to the realities and risks of the coronavirus, the expertise DOE provides responders in affected regions will prioritize the protection of the response restoration workforce. Energy sector owners and operators and emergency managers for state, local, tribal, and territorial entities can get ahead of the storm by reviewing FEMA’s COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season. For private citizens, FEMA also offers guidance on preparing for hurricane season during the COVID-19 pandemic.