FEATURE // EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS facility was on low-lying ground, entirely within a tsunami inundation zone. This facility would be a complete loss in the event of a tsunami or other high-water event and, ironically, it was located near an estuary, in addition to being in close proximity to the Paciﬁc. The substation, transformer, meter and communications crews serving our entire territory were housed there, as were most of their supplies and equipment. In a geographically and topographically challenged area with strict zoning restrictions, ﬁnding ﬂat, suitable land with the acreage needed to relocate was perhaps our biggest challenge. Not only did a new property have to be well above the tsunami inundation zone, it also had to be geologically sound. Ultimately, only one available site met all of our requirements, but it was comprised of 12 lots with four different owner s. If one or more landowners had learned their property was crucial to our project moving forward, we knew the asking price was likely to climb beyond market value. For tunately, we were able to quietly negotiate with all of the owners simultaneously, and were greatly relieved when every purchase agreement was ﬁnalized within budget. Our ﬁve, publicly elected board members, who had made emergency preparedness one of their highest priorities for Central Lincoln, backed their determination with a vote that could have been politically risky, approving $27 million in revenue bonds to pay for a new operations center for a utility with annual gross revenues of $ 91 million. After a thoroughly planned and executed public information-sharing campaign, resistance to the extensive project was nearly nonexistent, and the new Northern Operations Center was completed this year in Newpor t, Oregon. The facility was carefully designed not only to accommodate the needs of each group housed there, it was built with ICS top-of-mind. A large conference room is conﬁgured and wired to serve as an incident command center, kitchen facilities are large enough to serve command, crews and support personnel during and after a large-scale disaster, and shelter-in-place storage spaces are included. It is built to category 3-4 seismic standards. A majority of our customers understand that being prepared requires signiﬁcant resolve : A school dis tric t we ser ve, that has just 5,200 students, was able to get a $63 million dollar property tax levy passed six years ago. The funds were used in par t to replace a high school that was in the tsunami inundation zone. Next for Central Lincoln’s physical preparedness is a remodel of our Southern Operations Center, including seismic upgrades. We have also completed a vulnerability risk assessment of our transmission plant, ﬁber and substations. In keeping with a multitrack approach to disas ter preparedness, we have signed and execu ted mu tual aid agreements with utilities in Oregon, as well as with fellow Amer ican Public Power Association members, National Rural Electric Co-op Association members and the multistate Western Regional Mutual Aid Group (WRMAG). While Central Lincoln was blessed with a somewhat gentle winter in 2016-2017, other utilities in Oregon and California were hit with catastrophic ice and snow storms, leaving thousands of customers with temporarily uninhabitable homes just 60-100 miles away. We were able to send multiple crews for more than a week to one area where thousands were without power. We were touched to see appreciative letters to the editor, and heartfelt thanks on social media and via email from that utility’s customers. “Our goal is to provide assis tance whenever we can, because asking for and receiving aid when and if we need it is a cornerstone of our recovery planning,” explained Central Lincoln’s General Manager Debra Smith. “Events such as severe ice storms and massive snowfalls provide tangible reminders to our employees that emergencies will indeed happen, and there’s no excuse not to be prepared.” In addition to the water ﬁlters, emergency rations and solar chargers, every employee has received suggested checklists with recommended go-bag items, as well as a sugges ted lis t of items for sheltering at home for two to three weeks. Every vehicle in our ﬂeet also has a ready-to-go emergency pack with three days’ worth of supplies in it. For our fourth year of preparedness, employees received a backpack for their go-bags, and a multipurpose bucket and lid. “It’s so crucial to keep reinforcing preparedness,” explains Project Manager Gail Malcolm. “Nearly every item employees receive from us has an emergency application or purpose, whether the item is a thank you for serving on a committee, or for doing an exceptional job. This really helps drive home that we are committed — preparedness becomes par t of our culture, r ather than something we do once.” This year, in addition to a por table LED lantern, employees will receive an item that few have considered, but which all will need: a ﬁtted toilet seat to go with last year’s multipurpose bucket. “I test drove the idea with a few employees and they really liked it,” Malcolm said, laughing. “It’s sobering to think about the kind of devastation a Cascadian earthquake or tsunami would leave behind, and yet creating a culture of preparedness requires our employees to think about it regularly,” explained Smith. “We know that until our employees’ families are safe and taken care of, they won’t be able to begin the crucial work of safely restoring power to our customers. So part of our focus is to help our people get ready. Increasing system resiliency and improving employee readiness are both important, incremental efforts.” Western Energy / Winter 2017/2018 / westernenergy.org/we CHRIS CHANDLER is public 14 affairs manager for Central Lincoln PUD. She is a certiﬁed economic developer and a former news reporter.