Emergency management

Emergency management enables restoration efforts.


Utilities practice emergency management principles and work with governments and first responders across the country during and after extreme events have landed.

There are four core focus areas of emergency management:

1) Prevention and mitigation practices

Aimed at reducing risks due to emergency situations such as wildfires.

2) Utility preparedness: How ready are utilities to handle specific emergency situations?

Some apply predictive models to determine where an incoming storm may impact them and to what degree. This allows utilities to prepare and plan accordingly.

As extreme events are becoming more and more common (see major events in Indicators), emergency management practices will play a greater role in outage management.

3) Response

Once an extreme event occurs, it is critical that utilities respond in an integrated and systemic manner that is in accordance with their strategic response plan.

4) Recovery

A period of closing off restoration efforts, identifying lessons learned and ensuring continuity of operations and services to customers.


The 1998 ice storm

In 1998, ice storms caused major disruption in Canada and North-East United States. During the 3 periods of freezing rain in early January, ice accumulation amounted to as high as 70 mm in some areas. Power interruption impacted upwards of 4 million people and costed an estimated $2 billion (1998 CDN) to repair. Utilities worked with government officials, government services and military to keep lines of communication open. This type of coordination during extreme events is critical to accelerate access to damaged infrastructure for extreme event restoration efforts. February 6th marked the end of the ice storm restoration efforts.

Hurricane Dorian

Hurricane Dorian in 2019 impacted the eastern seaboard with floods, damaged infrastructure, and caused multiple outages. Emergency management allowed the hosting utility to manage logistics for incoming mutual assistance personnel who required over 36,000 meals, lodging from over 100 hotels, fuel for their trucks and more.

The Horse River Wildfire

The Horse River wildfire in 2016 which impacted Fort McMurray and other communities was one of Canada’s largest single fires in recent years, causing a reported $9.5 billion in direct and indirect costs to families, businesses and governments. These fires destroyed critical infrastructure to the area that had to be replaced. Utilities worked with provincial emergency management services to ensure restoration efforts, protection of assets and safety of workers.

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy in 2012 caused major damage along the U.S. Atlantic Coast (65 billion USD) and reached as far as Michigan, Ontario and Quebec. In Canada, Hurricane Sandy caused 100 million CDN in damage. Hundreds of Canadian lineworkers were sent south of the border to help with restoration efforts for mutual assistance initiatives.

Key messages

  • Sharing lessons learned in networking forums, such as those provided by Electricity Canada, enable utilities to become better at managing extreme events.
  • The development of a Strategic Emergency Management Plan is a key item in the emergency management toolbox.
  • Forming partnerships with government agencies and key authorities will provide a means to keep the channels of communication open – a critical factor in successful emergency management.

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