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The Big Freeze 2024: After Action Report

April 16, 2024 Robyn Smith, EWEB Communications

Winter 2024 was one for the records books, and we'll look back on it for years to come and say, "That was a doozy!"  

The back-to-back January Ice Storms caused widespread damage to EWEB’s service territory, affecting approximately 38,000 customers. Preliminary repair costs were over $8 million, and additional repairs to transmission lines are still required. 

The Ice Storm After-Action Report presented during the April board meeting (Starting at 03:22:00) highlights lessons learned and the overall priorities (below) for improving EWEB's storm response.  

List of stats from the 2024 January ice storms

Per Incident Command System (ICS) and FEMA best practices, a valuable part of the closeout process for major incidents is to discuss lessons learned with all staff involved and document things that went well and those that need improvement. These findings drive and ultimately create an action plan to recognize strengths and areas for improvement, such as processes, training, and resource needs before the next event occurs. This is completed through a series of “Hot Washes.” 

"A hot wash is a chance for each incident response section to huddle with their teams and discuss what worked well and what didn't, and then we come together with a long list of lessons learned," said Tyler Nice, electric operations manager. "While each section has action items to work on individually, the overall priorities were boiled down based on feedback from all the sections. Some ideas are quick tasks while others will need to be cross-functional initiatives that are worked out over the course of this year." 

The resulting After-Action Report is an overall summary of the event, pertinent data, and action items. 

EWEB will focus on the following overall priorities: 

Areas to emphasize: 

  • Annual ICS role-specific training in processes and systems used in storm response 
  • Pre-storm season stock up on parts, materials, and equipment 
  • Policy-driven support and resource allocation for ICS training and event response continuous improvement efforts 

Opportunities for improvement: 

  • Increase (and train) ICS organizational resources for better management of events be all business units 
  • Update and refine the Assessment & Restoration process, including Estimated Time of Restoration data capture and use for planning and outage map accuracy & efficiency 
  • Practice discipline in using ICS forms and structure to better manage the event and report to FEMA 

Jeannine Parisi, resiliency and emergency program manager, says, "We see major disruptive events happening more frequently. We can use learnings from this event to refine EWEB’s planning efforts and response so we can get back to regular business more quickly. Lessons learned from this event will help us become more resilient together. " 

Progress on the top-level action items will be tracked and reported during EWEB’s quarterly ICS team meetings. 

"With the ice remaining only in memory and the bulk of restorations behind us, we now focus on the cleanup and improvement process," said Nice. "I am so proud of our team’s response and even more appreciative of the community's support through this devastating incident.” 

What is ICS? 

For context, the Incident Command System (ICS) is a standardized approach to incident management used by government agencies at all levels. Roles and teams are established for safety, planning, operations, logistics, interagency coordination, and public communication. Each team works simultaneously to coordinate and resolve issues that arise during emergency response. EWEB activates ICS to prepare for and respond to major events.