Emergency planning, preparation and response are key components of Dominion’s integrated, enterprise-wide risk assessment framework. Our emergency preparedness programs enable trained personnel to identify, evaluate and manage through a wide variety of potential emergencies and major events, including those caused by severe weather and equipment malfunctions.
In 2011, our company and our stakeholders had ample opportunity to experience the value of these programs. Our responses to Hurricane Irene, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake, a tornado that brushed one of our Virginia nuclear stations, a natural gas-related overpressure incident at Fairport Harbor, Ohio, and other events benefitted from our preparations. These events also provided valuable lessons that we are applying to further improve our planning and response.
Crisis Response, Business Resumption & Communications Plan
To that end, we have developed a comprehensive and integrated Crisis Response, Business Resumption & Communications Plan. This plan is designed to ensure that Dominion reacts swiftly and appropriately to manage crises, maintains or resumes critical business functions that have been disrupted as quickly as possible, and communicates clearly and effectively with all stakeholder groups.
Under the direction of the company’s Chief Risk Officer, execution of this plan involves the participation of all employees and business groups. In addition to personnel responsible for business operations, other participants include those from Security, IT, Facilities, Corporate Communications, Government Affairs, Environmental Services, Supply Chain, Travel Services and others. The plan is designed to fully integrate the preparations and response to ensure that best practices and lessons learned are applied consistently across the company.
Under the plan, more than a dozen drills and educational sessions are conducted annually to test all phases of crisis response: operations, communications and corporate support. These drills often include participation by emergency responders and other outside groups. These are in addition to dozens of other business-unit or site-specific drills that focus on operational responses.
Two examples of the types of emergency planning we do are discussed below.
Nuclear Emergency Planning and Response
Dominion’s Nuclear Emergency Response Organization (ERO) is responsible for ensuring that adequate protective measures can and would be taken, both within our station boundaries and beyond, in the unlikely event of a radiological emergency at one of our four nuclear facilities in Virginia, Connecticut and Wisconsin.
We do this by providing detailed plans, procedures, facilities, equipment, training and performance-enhancing experiences for members of the ERO team, other Dominion business units and government response organizations at the federal, state and local levels.
he Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) oversees our plans and programs to protect the public by conducting thorough inspections of our facilities. Our emergency preparedness plans must meet comprehensive NRC guidelines. The agency evaluates our plans for compliance and also tests our ability to implement them at each of our nuclear stations.
Two incidents in 2011 involving our Virginia nuclear stations highlighted the importance of these preparations and Dominion’s ability to respond:
- On April 16, a tornado moved through the switchyard at Surry Power Station, knocking out offsite power to the facility; and
- On August 23, an earthquake centered about 12 miles from our North Anna Power station triggered an automatic station shutdown.
In both cases, our employees responded quickly and appropriately to manage the situations. The stations moved into safe shutdown mode, we communicated important information to our stakeholders, and we promptly took steps to return the stations to service as soon as safely possible. The restoration work required coordination between Dominion’s nuclear and electric transmission groups.
Storm Preparations and Planning
Mother Nature finds ways to disrupt electric service, whether in the form of ice storms, hurricanes, thunderstorms or other types of severe weather.
In 2011, Hurricane Irene became one of the most devastating weather events in the 100-year history of Dominion Virginia Power. The storm disrupted service to more than half of the company’s 2.4 million customers in Virginia and North Carolina.
Our response relied on a coordinated and integrated approach that we practice regularly. Employees in Transmission, Distribution, Supply Chain Management, Facilities and Security, IT, Human Resources, Travel Services and Corporate Communications worked around the clock.
As a result, we were able to restore service to virtually everyone affected by the storm in less than 9 days. By comparison, after Hurricane Isabel in 2003, we required 15 days to restore power to more than 1.8 million of our customers.
Our Goal: Continuous Improvement
Emergency preparedness is an evolving and ongoing initiative at Dominion. Each planning session, drill and real event provides lessons on how to improve. These lessons are captured and shared across the company to ensure they are applied where appropriate so that all of our stakeholders benefit from them.