WAPA employees found themselves on both sides of an Emergency Support Function #12 training June 19-20, both delivering and receiving the West Sector Initial Training that prepares new ESF-12 recruits to perform their duties effectively.
ESF-12's function is described by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as "assisting local, state, tribal, territorial, and federal government entities, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector by coordinating government capabilities, services, technical assistance, and engineering expertise during disasters and incidents that require a coordinated federal response."
In plain language, this means they serve as disaster response representatives who apply their expertise to helping restore the flow of power in the wake of tragedy. FEMA explains that they are trained to assist in producing, storing, refining, transporting, generating, transmitting, conserving, building, distributing, maintaining and controlling energy systems and system components.
It's a big job and clearly an important one, as demonstrated by recent emergency situations in the United States Virgin Islands, Hawaii and California. The more ESF-12 responders trained, the better, and the course in June saw participants come together from a number of different states.
Two of WAPA's own ESF-12s – Mechanical Engineer Russ Pascua and Power System Dispatcher Training Coordinator Pete Miller – participated in delivering the training, and the trainees included Senior Power Operations Specialist Sean Erickson and Power System Construction and Maintenance Advisor Will Schnyer.
Schnyer's interest in the program was the direct result of the dedication he saw WAPA's employees display during the USVI relief efforts.
"I met a Department of Energy ESF-12 trainer at the lessons-learned event this past January," Schnyer said. "He told me the DOE maintains a cadre of trained emergency responders, but they are always in need of additional volunteers. I secured my supervisor's approval to become certified as an ESF-12 responder."
Erickson has been interested in certification for more than two years, and was glad to finally take this step. He understands and appreciates the importance of the ESF-12 mission. "I've been waiting a long time," he said. "Now I look forward to deploying to assist during an event that impacts our region, WAPA or our neighbors."
Schnyer shared a similar sentiment.
"Being ESF-12 certified will allow me to apply technical and emergency management expertise to help others overcome challenges inherent in complex electric utility systems when energy infrastructure has been severely damaged," he said.
The training was led by experienced ESF-12 responders who went beyond the training materials to share how what the participants learn have been applied in actual disaster situations. This was an element of the training that Schnyer said was particularly resonant.
Erickson agreed. "It was a very helpful approach," he said. "Now to see it in real time…"
"My goal was to obtain a greater understanding of the role and responsibilities an ESF-12 responder has when called upon to assist with power restoration after a natural disaster," Schnyer said.
"I obtained a better understanding of FEMA's National Planning Frameworks. There is one for each of five mission areas: prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery. The frameworks describe how everyone works together to achieve the National Preparedness Goal."
With two more employees certified in ESF-12, WAPA would be able to assist even more with disasters that would otherwise leave Americans powerless.
It's an important role that Erickson and Schnyer are looking forward to fulfilling.