Winter Storm Uri, was a major winter and ice storm that had widespread impacts across the United States, Northern Mexico, and parts of Canada from February 13 to 17, 2021.
In February 2021, the state of Texas suffered a major power crisis, which came about as a result of three severe winter storms sweeping across the United States on February 10–11, 13–17, and 15–20; a massive electricity generation failure in the state of Texas; and resultant shortages of water, food, and heat. More than 4.5 million homes and businesses were left without power, some for several days.
Southern Gas Association (SGA) has an established mutual assistance program that allows its member companies to join forces in the wake of incidents and natural disasters like the above. This facilitated agreement provides emergency assistance in the form of personnel, supplies, equipment, and aid in the restoration of service.
SGA was put on alert and conducted daily check-ins at the request of affected member companies in anticipation and preparation of Mutual Aid. Thankfully, Mutual Aid was never activated, the support and communication were amazing, and the companies were ready to go at a moment’s notice.
How It Works
The magnitude of storms and incidents rocking our industry highlighted the need for an original agreement in 2005 and an enhanced agreement in 2015 and 2020. In 2020, SGA in collaboration with the American Gas Association, American Public Gas Association, Northeast Gas Association, and MEA Energy Association, created the natural gas industry’s first National Mutual Aid Agreement.
Effective January 1, 2021, the National Mutual Aid Agreement became one mutual aid agreement across the natural gas industry associations and ultimately made it more streamlined and a simpler mutual aid process.
It is a voluntary, no-fee mutual assistance program designed to suit the wide variety of needs of its member companies across the United States and Canada. The program is based on a coalition of member companies, which agree to a set of baseline provisions that govern mutual assistance and agree to populate and maintain the Mutual Assistance Database with company-specific emergency contact information, field capabilities, and other key resources available for mutual assistance. The purpose of the National Mutual Aid program is to supplement local, state, and regional mutual assistance programs and is intended for those unprecedented man-made or natural disasters requiring the dedication of response/recovery/restoration resources outside the limits of existing mutual aid programs. The incorporation of the National Mutual Assistance Program into a company’s emergency planning portfolio enhances advanced planning and effectuates response efforts in times of extenuating circumstances.
The program helps ensure natural gas utilities can get back on their feet in the wake of a severe weather storm, natural disaster, or significant industry event, and being able to provide the services their customers depend on.
Though it doesn’t happen often…the last time National Mutual Aid was requested was in October 2018 after the Merrimack Valley incident and, before that, in 2012, after Superstorm Sandy. But while national mutual aid has only been activated a handful of times in the past decade, which is due in large part to the resiliency of our infrastructure, the natural gas industry plans and practices their emergency response plans to be sure they are prepared for any significant event that may occur. Natural gas operators participate in mock drills and tabletop exercises to practice their emergency response plans, allowing them to implement the Incident Command Structure, effectively communicate across their organization and work with local, state and emergency officials to ensure that roles and responsibilities during an emergency are understood. SGA assists gas utilities in this process by offering emergency preparedness benchmarking data and hosting forums where SGA members can share lessons learned from past experiences and other pertinent information with peers.
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