According to an October 2015 report by the Department of Energy, the US energy infrastructure may not be able to withstand projected extreme weather changes associated with temperatures, precipitation, hurricanes, wildfire, and sea-level rise. Infrastructures were designed to perform across a known range of historical conditions. However, record breaking climate conditions that fall outside historical parameters have the potential to expose new vulnerabilities and stress the US energy infrastructure. As a result, it is imperative that companies ensure preparedness and response planning initiatives that reflect a new range of potential risks and climatological threats.
The private sector, which owns and operates the majority of energy assets in the US, holds central responsibility for identifying and implementing appropriate measures to ensure infrastructure resilience, continuity, and response. “In recent years, record temperatures, droughts, and floods have damaged energy infrastructure and disrupted energy systems, affecting American families and businesses across the country,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. The report highlighted the following major energy systems and susceptible locations that have the potential to be affected by regional climate impacts:
- Oil and gas upstream operations are most vulnerable in the Southeast, Southern Great Plains, and Alaska, particularly to decreasing water availability, and increasing temperatures and frequency of intense storms, hurricanes and storm surge.
- Fuel transport in every region is vulnerable to a variety of climate impacts, including increasing heavy precipitation, heat waves, drought, hurricanes, and sea level rise-enhanced storm surge.
- Thermoelectric power generation is vulnerable to increasing temperatures and reduced water availability in most regions, particularly in the Midwest, Great Plains, and southern regions.
- Hydropower is vulnerable to reduced snowpack, earlier melting, and changes to precipitation and runoff patterns, mainly in western regions.
- Bioenergy crops in the Midwest and Northern Great Plains may be harmed by higher temperatures and more frequent droughts and floods.
- Electric grid operations and infrastructure in every region is vulnerable to a variety of climate impacts, including increasing temperatures, heavy rainfall events, wildfire, hurricanes, and storm surge.
- Electricity demand is affected by increasing temperatures and is a key vulnerability in nearly every region.
With the potential for more frequent and severe disruptions, preparedness and response planning measures should be reviewed. At a minimum, the following severe weather measures should be included in a site-specific preparedness program:
PREPAREDNESSEstablish, verify, and exercise communication plans:
- Verify contact details and identify communication procedures with employees, emergency personnel, critical business unit leaders, and contractors in the event of an emergency
- Establish response plans in a portable format that can accessed through a variety of methods
- Verify availability and viability of communication equipment
- Monitor and determine applicable response procedures based on radio, television, and/or weather reports
Establish, verify, and exercise resource management and supply chain measures:
- Coordinate activities with local and state response agencies
- Evaluate equipment needs
- Pre-select alternate resources to ensure necessary response equipment is available when needed
- Pre-select alternate delivery of critical needs in the event primary suppliers are not able to provide required services such as:
- Electrical power
- Waste Management
- Operations-specific equipment
Establish, verify, and exercise personnel roles and responsibilities:
- Conduct site specific awareness training, including facility evacuation routes and shelter in place procedures
- Identify employees that should remain on-site (if deemed safe), and their responsibilities.
- Identify necessary minimum staffing levels and assignments necessary for recovery operations.
- As the storm passes, ensure staff, contractors, and suppliers understand their individual responsibilities and recovery time objectives.
- Train employees to recognize, report, and avoid hazardous chemicals discovered during debris clean up.
- Ensure that key safety and maintenance personnel are thoroughly familiar with all building systems, such as alarms, utility shutoffs, elevators, etc.
Infrastructure-related RESPONSE MEASURES
- Evaluate building structures, roadways, surfaces, trenches and excavations for damage, stability and safety
- Inspect the worksite before allowing employees to enter
- Report hazards such as downed power lines, frayed electrical wires, or gas leaks to the appropriate authorities
- Assume all wires and power lines are energized
- Beware of overhead and underground lines, especially when moving ladders or equipment near them
- Utilize a site plan for collection of debris
- Inform employees where debris is being collected and deposited of any special hazards they may encounter during recovery efforts
- Be aware of possible biological hazards
- Use flaggers, traffic cones and highway channeling devices to steer traffic away from hazards and employees working along roadways
- Provide traffic flow details and train employees to stay clear of all motorized equipment.
- Provide radio equipment and extra batteries to all spotters and equipment operators, so warnings can be communicated
- Utilize point of contact for employees check in procedures
- Freeze all computer system updates so that systems will not be damaged by electrical surges
- Ensure employee safety
- Before engaging in strenuous tasks in extreme temperatures, consider employee's physical condition, weather factors, and the nature of the task.
- Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and sturdy shoes when examining walls, doors, staircases and windows for damage
- If applicable, provide all employees with personal protective equipment (PPEs), including hard hats, safety glasses, work boots, and gloves