On June 29, Hurricane Alex became the first hurricane of the 2010 season, and the first Atlantic hurricane to occur as early as June since 1995. The next day, a Department of Energy “energy response team” gathered in Washington, D.C. for the last in a series of first-responder training sessions, preparing for the rest of the season and other potential energy-sector emergencies. Although another hurricane hasn’t formed yet, NOAA still predicts an above-normal hurricane season, which typically runs from August through October.
An above-normal season makes preparedness all the more important. The Department's energy response team is just one piece of the federal government’s multi-agency effort to prepare for disasters like hurricanes that could strike important energy infrastructure, like the electric grid and Gulf Coast petroleum production network. More than 80 Department of Energy officials volunteered to be on the teams, providing crucial expertise as engineers, energy technical advisors or emergency managers. When an emergency occurs, these teams assess the damage caused to the nation’s energy systems. These systems can be complex, consisting of a variety of pieces -- from energy production to refining, transportation and construction. They often envelop multiple energy sources as well, including combinations of oil, coal, natural gas, hydro and nuclear. The teams of experts do a technical analysis of the damage that occurred, then provide assistance to the local governments and private stakeholders who are working to fix them.
Though the government has a role to play in emergency preparedness, so do the American people. If you live in a part of the country where hurricanes might cause damage, be sure to have a plan and a kit ready. Both NOAA and FEMA have useful resources on how to prepare for hurricanes.
The National Response Framework details the Department of Energy's emergency support functions for the nation’s energy sector. Visit www.oe.energy.gov for more information on the Department's work in emergency preparedness.