Emergency Response + Assistance Practices (Apr 23-24)

Emergency preparedness and business continuity planning is crucial to a timely response to business disruptions - whether they are caused by weather impacts, cyber attacks, or equipment malfunction. This forum provides an open discussion on pressing topics surrounding utility emergency planning and operations. Through this and the Western Region Mutual Assistance Agreement, leaders develop relationships that will prove beneficial to members in an emergency. The spring ERAP program is open to utilities and service providers, and precedes the WEI Operations Conference.

General Details

  • Program Chair(s)
  • Robert Howell, Southern California Gas Company

    • Program Location
    • Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort
    • 11111 North Seventh Street
      Phoenix, AZ 85020
    • Who Should Attend
      • Operations managers
      • Emergency management coordinators
      • Disaster recovery planners
      • Directors of business continuity planning
      • Emergency preparedness supervisors
      • Managers of emergency services
      • Emergency planning and response specialists
      • Safety specialists
      • Parties to the Western Region Mutual Assistance Agreement
      • Service company members
  • Registration Options
  • Member: $499 USD
    Regular: $899 USD

    Registration prices increase $100 after March 16, 2018. Registration includes ERAP welcome reception, breakfast and lunch Tuesday, and all meeting materials, as well as attendance at the WEI Operations Conference reception. Guest tickets are available for $50 and allow a personal guest (a spouse or partner who does not work in the energy industry) to accompany a registered attendee at the event. The guest registration includes all meals and receptions, and all program materials.

  • General Cancellation Policy
  • Due to contractual obligations, cancellations received 15 business days prior to the program will receive a full refund. Cancellations received 6 to 14 business days prior to the event will receive a refund, less a $100 administrative fee. No shows and last minute cancellations, 5 business days prior to the event or less, will be responsible for the full registration fee. Substitutions from your organization for the same event are always welcome.
  • Participation Policy
  • Western Energy Institute programs and events are open to energy companies (including gas production and electric generation, gas and electric transmission and gas and electric distribution utilities). Select programs and events are open to energy industry product and service suppliers. Programs and events are closed to all media representatives and to the general public.
  • For more information contact Eric Christenson, Senior Program Manager at (971) 303-2118.


Monday, April 23, 2018

7:00 AM - 12:00 PM

(Optional) Golf Networking at Lookout Mountain Golf Club

Advanced registration is required for this event. Please email Eric Christenson at christenson@westernenergy.org for additional details.

1:30 PM - 2:00 PM

WRMAG Executive Committee Meeting

Closed meeting for the WRMAG Co-Chairs, Vice Chair, Secretary, and Custodian to the Agreement.

2:00 PM - 2:15 PM

Introductions + Welcome
Facilitator(s): Robert Howell, Emergency Services Manager, Southern California Gas Company

2:15 PM - 3:00 PM

After Action Report - Salt River Project GridEx IV National Grid Exercise
Speaker(s): Ken Lewis, Business Continuity & Emergency Management, Salt River Project

Salt River Project shares their lessons learned, discusses how much planning was involved, and the benefits from the GridEx IV National Grid Exercise.

3:00 PM - 3:15 PM


3:15 PM - 4:00 PM

After Action Report - Southern California Gas Co Santa Barbara County Mudslides
Speaker(s): Robert Howell, Emergency Services Manager, Southern California Gas Company

Soon after responding to catastrophic wildfires in southern California, the region was hit with a rain storm that lasted only 15 minutes but killed 20 people and damaged 200 homes. Southern California Gas Company shares how they responded to the incident.

4:00 PM - 4:15 PM


4:15 PM - 5:00 PM

After Action Report - BC Hydro Ice Storms
Speaker(s): Greg Ryley, Emergency Manager, BC Hydro

BC Hydro will share their experience dealing with abnormal weather and adapting plans to abnormal events. They will focus on what they learned from the process perspective. The session ends with an open discussion on the best practices and examples of getting get crews and equipment to impacted areas in weather events.

5:00 PM - 6:30 PM

Welcome Reception at the Hotel

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

7:00 AM - 8:00 AM

Catered Breakfast

8:00 AM - 9:00 AM

Opening Roundtable - Current Issues Impacting your Organization
Facilitator(s): Robert Howell, Emergency Services Manager, Southern California Gas Company

Be prepared to share!

9:00 AM - 9:45 AM

Opening Keynote - Lessons Learned from 2017 Hurricanes
Speaker(s): Wayne Wisdom, Senior Director, Distribution Grid Services, Salt River Project, Jason Ramsay, Surprise O&M Supervisor, Arizona Public Service Company

Topics include:
* Coordination between public and private utility companies in national mutual aid response
* Materials requests
* Multi-regional events and communication
* Pre-positioning crews for incoming storms via mutual aid

9:45 AM - 10:00 AM


10:00 AM - 10:45 AM

Corporate Emergency Management Best Practices Discussions
Speaker(s): Darlene Cox, Senior Manager, Construction, ATCO Gas, Lydia Mertyris, Emergency Planning and Preparedness Program Coordinator, Hawaiian Electric Company

ATCO Gas and Hawaii Electric Company lead a discussion on corporate emergency management best practices. We share stories of the challenges faced coordinating one emergency management plan across multiple companies. 

10:45 AM - 11:15 AM


11:15 AM - 12:00 PM

Incident Command System Training and Implementation Roundtable - Part 1
Facilitator(s): Barron Kelley, Manager, Gas Operations, Dominion Energy
Speaker(s): Jim Nowak, Director of Utility Services, ARCOS LLC

Program participants will be surveyed on their current state in using ICS at their utilities, roll-out of initial training programs, and how to maintain proficiency over time. Results of the survey will be shared with the group and then there will be an open discussion on ICS best practices.

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

Catered Lunch

1 PM - 1:45 PM

Incident Command System Training and Implementation Roundtable - Part 2
Facilitator(s): Barron Kelley, Manager, Gas Operations, Dominion Energy

Continued roundtable discussion.

1:45 PM - 2:00 PM


2:00 PM - 2:45 PM

Employee Notifications in an Emergency Events
Speaker(s): Renee Tyler, Sr. Emergency Management Administrator, NV Energy

Companies need to be able to notify employees and get information to them in an event. Knowing where employees are during an emergency is the first step towards response. We ask what's the best solution, in companies where there are different employee classes, management, regions, and other limiting factors.

2:45 PM - 3:45 PM

Afternoon Open Roundtable

Attendees will get the opportunity to submit topics throughout the day to address during this session.

3:45 PM - 4:00 PM

Wrap Up, Next Steps, Action Items
Facilitator(s): Robert Howell, Emergency Services Manager, Southern California Gas Company

Meeting adjourns

5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

Operations Conference Opening Reception

Program Participants are invited to attend the Operations Conference Opening Reception.

Hotel + Travel

  • Reservation Instructions
  • Please contact the hotel directly at (800) 947-9784 to reserve your room, or complete your reservation online. Identify yourself as being with Western Energy Institute to receive a special rate of $239 USD/night. This rate is guaranteed until March 17, 2018 or until the WEI room block is full.

Meet The Speakers

Robert Howell

Southern California Gas Company

Emergency Services Manager

Kenneth Lewis

Salt River Project

Business Continuity & Emergency Management

Greg Ryley

BC Hydro

Emergency Manager

Darlene Cox


Senior Manager, Construction

Lydia Mertyris

Hawaiian Electric Company

Emergency Planning and Preparedness Program Coordinator

Jim Nowak


Director of Utility Services
Learn More

James D. Nowak, Sr. Director of Operations, Product and Services joined ARCOS in July 2014 after retiring from American Electric Power (AEP) after 37 years.

Nowak capped his career with AEP by directing their utility’s distribution emergency restoration planning group. Nowak held various positions within AEP including Dist. Engineering Supervisor, Dist. Line Supervisor, Dist. Records Superintendent, Region Operations Manager, Region Dispatching Manager and Dist. Dispatch Support Manager.
As Sr Director of Operations, Product and Services Nowak manages ARCOS Product Management initiatives by working closely with our customers and all internal employees. He also helps with implementing projects that benefit our customers and the electric and gas industries in the areas of day-to-day and emergency operations and services.

Presently a member of the All Hazard Consortium (AHC) Fleet Response Working Group (FRWG) on the movement of resources during restoration efforts and sits on their steering committee. He previously held positions as Southeastern Electric Exchange’s (SEE) chair for their Mutual Assistance Committee and Distribution Council and vice chair of their Smart Grid Task Force. Jim was one of the original Co-Chair’s for Edison Electric Institute’s (EEI) Mutual Assistance Committee and National Mutual Assistance Resource Team and a member of EEI’s National Response Event (NRE) governance and exercise sub-committees. Jim was also a co-founder of the Great Lakes Mutual Assistance Group and active member and leader in the Midwest Mutual Assistance Group and the Texas Mutual Assistance Group and represented AEP on the Business Round Table Disaster Relief Committee.

Renee Tyler

NV Energy

Sr. Emergency Management Administrator

Wayne Wisdom

Salt River Project

Senior Director, Distribution Grid Services

Barron Kelley

Dominion Energy

Manager, Gas Operations
Learn More

Barron began his career in Operations working as a dispatcher in the Operation’s Dispatch Department. During that time he became involved with developing the first of a series of applications for managing field service work in a mobile workforce environment. After working in that area for 6 years, he spent 10 years as a business consultant supporting the telecommunications for QGC that included the QGC Call Center, Dispatch applications, Radios, and field service’s applications in the vehicle. Barron also spent 5 years in the IT Department as a network analyst where he implemented and supported WANs/LANs, Firewalls, Web filtering services, and implemented VPNs to support a mobile workforce.

After finishing his MBA, Barron took a position in QGC Operations managing the Dispatch and scheduling Operations for Dominion Energy West Gas Operations, formerly Questar Gas, and is currently managing and supporting that group and other assigned IT projects that involve Operations.

Jason Ramsay

Arizona Public Service Company

Surprise O&M Supervisor