Power Plant Operations knows the drill

By Shelby Doherty

It’s easy to take for granted how smoothly life around us runs, without stopping to think about how much work goes into making sure something runs flawlessly. Take National Grid’s generation plants for example; Power Plant Operations (PPO) must prepare for a host of scenarios, which of course they hope will never happen, but for which they must be ready. On Long Island, National Grid has 50 electric generating units located at 10 sites throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.  From communication drills, to tabletop drills, to government-mandated oil spill drills, the PPO team has experience in these exercises.

There are dozens of drills annually that occur across the 10 sites, mainly focused around these areas: Security, Disaster Recovery, Confined Space Rescue, and Site Evacuation. PPO and Emergency Planning regularly invite the local fire departments to train and drill on site, and team up for drills throughout the year with other agencies such as the United States Coast Guard, local police departments and hospitals.

“Frequent drills are important to us here at our generation plants,” explains Jim Flannery, vice president of Power Plant Operations. “We need to feel secure in what we do, and also make sure that other local agencies know their role in the event of a real-life emergency.”

In just the last few months, PPO has conducted the following drills:

  • Mass casualty simulation – Northport Power Station was the site of a simulated airplane crash on adjacent boat ramps that left about 20 people, simulating victims, scattered on land and in the water. The Coast Guard, National Grid, Suffolk PD Marine unit, Town of Huntington fire coordinators, Town of Huntington fire departments and Huntington Hospital all participated. “Victims” were rescued, treated and delivered to local hospitals. Heavy rescue equipment was used to extricate survivors from plane remnants simulated by a surplus school bus.
  • E. F. Barrett Power Station recently completed its annual joint drill with the Island Park Fire Department. The visiting firefighters were broken up into two groups consisting of members that had never been to the plant and those that have attended on previous visits. The first-timers were led by emergency response team staff to the plant roof to get a firsthand appreciation of what it takes to get personnel and equipment to the upper parts of the station without the elevator.  The second group of “veteran” members was given a familiarization tour on the outside of the plant, with a focus on hazardous material response and scenarios involving evacuations.
  • Port Jefferson Power Station conducted a “confined space” rescue drill at the site in cooperation with the local fire department and Suffolk Fire Training Academy.  The external groups appreciate the opportunity to practice at Port Jefferson because the facilities provide much more realistic rescue situations than the training academy mock ups.
  • PPO’s annual oil spill tabletop drill and exercise was conducted at Northport Power Station. Approximately 50 employees and 30 first responders from a host of federal, state, county and local agencies, Northville Industries and our oil spill response contractors participated. The drill was preceded by a day of Incident Command Structure refresher training. The drill scenario simulated an actual #2 oil spill that occurred on Long Island in 1985 when 100,000 gallons escaped from the tank containment dike and some of the oil reached the water. Interestingly, several employees at the drill were responders to the real spill in 1985.

These drills allow PPO and emergency Planning, as well as local businesses, first responders and other agencies to feel confident that if a situation were to occur, everyone would know how to properly react to protect the public, first responders and employees.

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