Superstorm Sandy illustrated the importance of preparedness.

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In a recent article in Domestic Preparedness, Stephen Grainer, chief of IMS programs for the Virginia Department of Fire Programs, discusses the need to strengthen the resiliency of the U.S. electric power infrastructure. Severe weather events, in particular, have demonstrated just how important it is to guard against the risk of large-scale power outages. Grainer emphasizes that it's critical to improve resilience capacity. Toward this end, it is vital to check your list twice.

The importance of ground support, supply and facilities

Logistics are the crucial component in any resiliency plan, and within this, ground support, supply and facilities are especially important. As Grainer explains, "the logistics section of the Incident Command System encompasses six elements: supply, facilities, ground support, communications, medical, and food." It is essential that a unit leader manages each of these aspects.

Ground support, supplies and facilities are critical, as Superstorm Sandy illustrated. Grainer expands on this point: "Although communications, medical, and food are critical needs, critical logistics needs in the response and restoration operations following Superstorm Sandy revolved around ground support, supply, and facilities."

Zepheniah (Zeph) Cunningham, the incident commander for the National Park Service Eastern Incident Management Team for 15 National Park sites in New York and New Jersey, following Superstorm Sandy, said that his team ran up against many logistical challenges. Some of these challenges included clearing access routes, removing debris and securing national treasures. One issue personnel noted was the accumulation of mold and mildew around many valuable artifacts. Grainer writes, "These findings significantly increased the urgency to respond and raised the priority of restoring power to many of those monuments."

Following Sandy, the supply of available portable generators was depleted. To deal with this issue, the National Park Service had to issue an emergency procurement requisition from a national retailer as well as send transports to the distribution center, pick up the equipment and then return it to the sites that required emergency power. Grainer notes that, in recent years, local emergency as well as public utilities and service operations have encountered difficulty getting portable generators.

The need for a fuel supply line

"Once the generator issue had been addressed, the next challenge encountered was establishing a fuel supply chain to operate those generators at each of the various sites," Grainer writes. While the majority of commercial service stations had fuel, with the power being out, it wasn't possible to access the fuel. Meanwhile, the lines to facilities which did have fuel were notably long.

Given these challenges, the Park Service chose to "import" its own fuel supplies. Yet, this created two other challenges, one of which was complying with federal, state and local laws regarding transporting hazardous commodities. Grainer explains the solution: "After identifying the constraints on transportation, the Eastern Incident Management Team found it necessary to bring fuel tenders from distant sources and by way of some circuitous routes. However, after several days of deliberations, those arrangements were made and fuel was brought into the affected region to enable the Park Service operations to recommence and function efficiently."

The other challenge concerned "establishing approved dispensing operations." In this instance, too, it was critical to comply with local and state laws regarding fuel dispensing facilities. Cunningham's takeaway from his team's experience during Superstorm Sandy was the importance of making lists and checking them twice. 

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