Mutual Assistance

Lineworkers are always prepared to address issues that arise both within and outside the bounds of their service territory, and to assist in circumstances that have threatened the reliable distribution of electricity to their neighbours.

Overview

When extreme weather or other damaging events occur within a utility’s service territory, they may call upon the aid of other utilities to assist in the restoration. Lineworkers, arborists and other field staff travel to assist restoration efforts, with deployments ranging from neighbouring service territories to multi-utility international efforts. These efforts are sometimes coordinated in regional mutual assistance groups, allowing a utility’s request for mutual aid to efficiently reach broad audiences.

Mutual assistance agreements reinforce the engagements between various utilities, where their respective lineworkers aid each other to restore power to energy customers across North America in times of severe weather.

The Canadian Mutual Assistance Group (CanMAG)

In 2013, Toronto was hit with a severe ice storm, causing nearly 600,000 outages in the area. Utilities from across the province came to the aid of affected utilities, although the restoration process was fraught with the complexity of coordinating a multitude of crews from different utilities to the areas that needed assistance. Prior to 2013, there was not a national mutual assistance framework in place. In 2014, CEA members came together to strike the Canadian Mutual Assistance Group (CanMAG), a committee committed to improving mutual assistance activities and practices across the country. The CanMAG created the National Mutual Assistance Agreement, which provides a basis for utilities to request and offer mutual assistance in times of need.

The Ontario Mutual Assistance Group (OnMAG)

In 2020, Toronto Hydro and Hydro One partnered with CEA to launch the Ontario Mutual Assistance Group (OnMAG), a one-year pilot program exploring a more formal method of coordinating mutual assistance among the province’s 60+ utilities. The program is led by a coordinator, who responds to mutual assistance requests and facilitates bringing together program participants to fulfil the requests where possible.

Important Dates

  • On Saturday, December 21, 2013, the worst ice storm in recent memory hit southern Ontario. By the evening of the 21st, the City of Toronto was hit directly, and overnight nearly 600,000 customers were left without power, including 300,000 in Toronto alone. There was more than 30 millimetres of ice accumulation on the trees. Falling tree limbs tore down over 500 wires. Toronto Hydro and Hydro One received support from at least 15 utilities in Ontario and crews from Michigan crossed the border to assist as well.
  • In 2014, following the Toronto ice storm, CEA members from across Canada struck the Canadian Mutual Assistance Group and created the National Mutual Assistance Agreement.
  • In 2020, the Ontario Mutual Assistance Group pilot project was launched.

Did You Know?

Mutual assistance is not confined to domestic deployments; Canadian utilities are often asked and respond to requests for resources south of the border, in the United States and the Caribbean. In 2020, CEA members sent more than 200 personnel across the border to assist with storms in the United States.

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