While the threat of cybersecurity attacks on the electric grid get a lot of attention these days, physical damage from storms or critters is much more likely to disrupt power. There are many physical threats to our power delivery system that your cooperative works hard to manage on a daily basis. From weather events (such as ice storms, tornadoes and flooding) to criminal activity (including copper theft and shooting at a substation), it takes proactive commitment to consistently deliver reliable service.
If the lights do go out, we’re ready to restore power as quickly and as safely as possible. Here are three key ways that we work to keep your power as reliable as possible:
- Being Part of the Community.
One of the most valuable things about being served by an electric cooperative is that you also have an ownership stake in the way the cooperative operates. Electric cooperatives know our communities. We live and work in the neighborhoods and towns we serve. You know many of Access Energy Cooperative’s board members and employees, who are also personally acquainted with or are a part of fire departments, county supervisors, EMTs, etc.
We know that emergencies can happen at any time. These relationships are important in urgently responding to unplanned events or in preparing for more predictable events, including winter storms or summer flooding. For example, when a significant winter storm impacted almost every area of South Dakota over the Christmas holiday – leaving thousands without power – Iowa’s electric cooperatives responded. That’s because we’re part of one large cooperative community and cooperation among cooperatives is an essential principle of providing reliable electric service.
- Planning, Preparing and Practicing.
There is a well-known saying that it’s not if a crisis will occur, but when it will occur. What constitutes a crisis can mean different things to member-owners, depending on the role electricity plays in their daily lives or businesses. We test our disaster and business continuity plans regularly and pride ourselves on being prepared at all times. Our plans not only focus on how to prevent threats, but also how to respond and recover from them. Business activities, such as vegetation management or pole inspections, may seem routine; however, they are strategically performed to proactively reduce threats. Trees too close to power lines can cause major damage during a storm and may result in a lengthy outage.
3. Coordinating with Stakeholders.
Access Energy Cooperative places a high importance on partnerships with fellow cooperatives, our state and national electric cooperative associations, industry partners and government agencies to mitigate the potential impacts of all types of threats to our system. Electric cooperatives work closely with the rest of the electric industry, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Energy, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on matters of critical infrastructure protection – including sharing needed information about potential threats and working together to avoid disruptions to the extent possible.
Although the grid is incredibly resilient and can withstand many physical impacts, it’s also a dynamic infrastructure that requires constant attention. We are vigilant in ensuring we protect the grid from physical and cyber threats in order to power your lives!
Ways You Can Help
Report Suspicious Activity
We ask our member-owners to be mindful of unusual situations and to immediately report them to us or local authorities. For example, if you see non-cooperative personnel near a substation, that’s noteworthy and should be reported. If you see something that doesn’t seem right, we ask you to say something so that it can be investigated.
Check for Damage
If you have tree branches or other vegetation growing too closely to power lines or utility poles, please contact our operations department at 319.385.1577 so we can keep our lines clear in order to provide the most reliable service. If you come across damaged poles or equipment, please call our main number at 319.385.1577 to report it.