The answer to that question during most outages, for the most part, is no.
“Basically the idea is you take care of your own customers first,” AEP Appalachian Power spokesman John Shepelwich pointed out. “When you have a storm like that, adjacent utilities are going to be hit equally hard and have the same issues.”
Said TVA spokesman Travis Brickey: “As the wholesale electric provider for BrightRidge, BTES (Bristol Tennessee Essential Services), Holston Electric Cooperative and others (we have 154 local power companies we provide electricity for), our priority is the bulk electric system to restore service to the local power companies. We do work with neighboring utilities, if requested, to provide assistance with transmission line restoration.”
AEP Appalachian Power serves Kingsport, but if you drive into Colonial Heights, that’s BrightRidge’s service area.
Shepelwich pointed out AEP Appalachian Power does have mutual assistance-type of agreements much more based on contractors – the contractors who are assigned to a particular utility as opposed to the employees.
In the most recent outage event, said Shepelwich, AEP Appalachian Power started moving its own employees down from the Christiansburg and Roanoke districts into our area when the company started seeing a larger number of outages.
“Essentially, we have about five different priorities,” Shepelwich stressed. “Number one would be hospitals and public safety, then we would move on to fire stations, water services, number three would be local and state government agencies, then agencies that would need power to serve affected customers like the Red Cross, then schools because they are used as shelters … the idea is to get the most customers back on and work your way down the line.”
Shepelwich said AEP Appalachian Power was able to restore power with 90 percent of its customers in the Kingsport area within a day, but still had a large number of homes without power.
BrightRidge spokesman Tim Whaley said the BrightRidge and AEP Appalachian Power systems do not tie together at any point on the distribution side.
“Restoration during a large outage event generally involves clearing any impacted substations before moving to primary and secondary feeder lines,” Whaley said. “This process allows us to restore the largest number of customers in the shortest amount of time. Often this will include businesses as they are usually located in densely populated areas, and industrial customers, which are often located near substations.”
Aside from the utilities, the City of Kingsport dodged a sewer bullet by adding generators and emergency pumps to many of its larger sewer pumping stations.
“This has been a long term effort driven by our maintenance staff and supported by the (Board of Mayor and Aldermen) through the CIP (Capital Improvement Program) process to ensure permit compliance and the protection of the health of the environs and citizens of Kingsport,” said Ryan McReynolds, assistant city manager for operations. “During the July 20th storm event, multiple permit violations were averted and more importantly the public and waterways were protected through the use of these generators and emergency pumps.”