Hurricane season in the Atlantic began on June 1 and will last through November 30. Every year, the Federal government works closely with industry and government partners to prepare for the season. If a major electricity outage or energy supply disruption were to occur as a result of a hurricane, we at the Department of Energy (DOE) would play a vital role in coordinating with our partners to prepare for and recover from such an event.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry joined President Trump, the First Lady, Vice President Pence, Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen and other officials in a hurricane briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Headquarters. Below is a photo from the briefing.

Photo of the President and other participants at the 2018 FEMA hurricane briefing
President Donald J. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, First Lady Melania Trump and members of the Trump administration cabinet attend the annual FEMA hurricane season briefing at FEMA Headquarters from FEMA Administrator Brock Long.
Photo by Paul Luke

DOE recently created a new office focused on protecting critical energy infrastructure and coordinating preparedness and response to natural and man-made threats. The Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response (CESER) leads DOE in its role as the Federal Sector-Specific Agency (SSA) supporting Emergency Support Function 12 (ESF-12).

The Office performs a number of important duties in the event of an emergency. One primary role is managing responders who specialize in energy infrastructure and systems. These responders can be quickly activated and deployed to the disaster site. Another important role is coordinating with deployed personnel, other DOE offices, and Federal, state, and local agencies and industry in responding to an emergency. If a hurricane impacts the United States, DOE will publish Situation Reports that provide details on the storm’s impact to the energy sector and the recovery and restoration activities being undertaken.

Being prepared to respond is crucial. The division within CESER that I lead – Infrastructure Security and Energy Restoration (ISER) – prepares for hurricane season in a number of ways throughout the year. Our partnerships with industry and government at the Federal, state, and local levels are vital for being ready for a storm. Earlier this month, we led routine pre-storm season coordination calls with these partners to discuss security, resiliency, and emergency preparedness and response.

We also perform a number of practice exercises leading up to Hurricane season. In early May, we conducted the Clear Path VI Table Top Exercise, the annual iteration of ISER’s flagship exercise series. Clear Path provides a forum for our public and private partners to openly discuss and identify solutions to issues impacting the Nation’s energy infrastructure before, during, and after a disaster. The scenario-based exercise allows participants to test their current emergency plans and determine gaps in addressing energy emergencies. The lessons we learned from Clear Path prepared us for our role in this year’s National Level Exercise, the focus of which was a major hurricane that impacted the Mid-Atlantic States.

We also use an interactive geographic information system called EAGLE-I. This tool provides capabilities for monitoring energy infrastructure assets, reporting energy outages, displaying potential threats to energy infrastructure, and coordinating emergency response and recovery. Last year, we expanded access to EAGLE-I to emergency operations centers and energy emergency assurance coordinators in all 50 states and Washington, DC. Now an even bigger group can use the tool to facilitate electric sector situational awareness in their regions and accelerate restoration.

As experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and FEMA will tell you, it is essential that you and your family be prepared before a hurricane approaches. The NOAA and websites are valuable source of information. Another valuable resource is our Community Guidelines for Energy Emergencies. Because every emergency is different, it is important for your safety that you follow the directives of your state and local emergency management authorities and local utilities. By working together, we will be better prepared as a nation to respond and quickly recover from hurricanes as well as other disasters.       

To learn more about DOE’s role in facilitating recovery from disruptions to the energy supply, visit the energy security section of the CESER website.