Emergency Response + Assistance Practices (Apr 22-23)

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 Location
  • JW Marriott parq Vancouver
  • 39 Smithe Street
    Vancouver, British Columbia V6B 1C1
  • 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 29, 2019. 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. 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, Director of Program Curriculum + Analytics at (971) 303-2118.


Monday, April 22, 2019

1:00 PM - 1:30 PM

WRMAG Executive Committee Meeting

Closed meeting for the WRMAG Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, Secretary In-Waiting, and Custodian to the Agreement.

1:30 PM - 2:00 PM

Registration + Open Networking

Arrive early to reconnect with others before we officially kick off the 2019 ERAP meeting.

2:00 PM - 2:15 PM

Introductions + Welcome

2:15 PM - 3:00 PM

AAR #1 - SoCal Gas LDC Gas Response - Lessons Learned
Speaker(s): Robert Howell, Manager, Pipeline Safety & Compliance and Emergency Management, Southern California Gas Company

Southern California Gas Company provides best practices and lessons learned from LDC gas response events.

3:00 PM - 3:15 PM


3:15 PM - 4:00 PM

AAR #2 - BC Hydro December 2018 Windstorm
Speaker(s): Lanny Sawchuck, Director, Line Field Operations, BC Hydro, Lawrence Pillon, Corporate Affairs Manager, Communities and Capital Projects, BC Hydro, Ben Peco, Senior Manager, Security & Emergency Management, BC Hydro

On December 20, 2018 a severe windstorm hit B.C.’s South Coast, subsequently becoming  the most damaging storm BC Hydro has experienced. The storm left more than 750,000 customers without power and damaged or destroyed thousands of pieces of electrical equipment. Responding to the storm involved the single biggest mobilization of staff, contractors and resources in BC Hydro’s history.  During and after the event, BC Hydro took an aggressive approach to communicating with customers, communities and the government of British Columbia, effectively shaping the content and tone of messaging though all of our channels.

Learn from BC Hydro’s approach to integrating various communication channels within its ICS structure.

4:00 PM - 4:15 PM


4:15 PM - 5:00 PM

AAR #3 - Tillamook PUD Responds: A Comparison of Mutual Assistance Assignments
Speaker(s): Todd Simmons, General Manager, Tillamook PUD, Joanna Stelzig, Public Relations Manager, Tillamook PUD

In early November of 2018, the massive Camp Fire blazed through Butte County, California, becoming the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history to date. Tillamook PUD will share their experience sending crews to Paradise, CA to assist Pacific Gas & Electric with power restoration efforts after this devastating disaster. Tillamook PUD will also cover their recent response to assist Consumers Power, Inc. and Emerald PUD after a massive snowstorm hit the Southern Willamette Valley of Oregon.

5:00 PM - 6:30 PM

Welcome Reception at the Hotel

Sponsored by Tempest Energy

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

7:00 AM - 8:00 AM

Catered Breakfast

8:00 AM - 9:00 AM

Opening Roundtable - Current Issues Impacting your Organization
Facilitator(s): Dave Ponozzo, Manager of Emergency Preparedness, Grant County PUD

Be prepared to share!

9:00 AM - 10:00 AM

Incident Command System Roundtable
Speaker(s): Jim Nowak, Sr. Director of Operations, Product and Services, ARCOS LLC

Program participants will be surveyed on their current state in using ICS at their utilities, rollout 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.

10:00 AM - 10:15 AM


10:15 AM - 11:00 AM

Lessons Learned and Best Practices from the Contractor Perspective
Speaker(s): Brian Standish, Vice President, Business Development, Quanta Services

As the role of contractors used to support utilities during major storm events continues to grow, we will look at the contractor emergency response structure and how they can best support the utility, including the differences when use of contractor crews and utility crews as well as lessons learned around mobilization and safety.

11:00 AM - 11:15 AM


11:15 AM - 12:00 PM

ShakeAlert, Time to Act
Speaker(s): Bill Steele, Director of Communications and Outreach, Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, University of Washington, Daniel R. Ervin P.E., Executive Vice President, Engineer In Responsible Charge, Varius, Inc., Craig Norman, Project Engineer, Varius, Inc.

What would you do with three minutes of warning that strong shaking is on the way from a Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake? The ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system now covering the West Coast of the US is in operational mode, is producing such warnings for all earthquake greater than M 3.5. 

New University of Washington innovations add real-time GPS data to the strong motion seismic data to accurately characterize great earthquakes in less than a minute by measuring the ground displacement caused by the fault rupture. This talk discusses recent developments in our understanding of regional earthquake and tsunami hazards. We will also discuss the operational ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system that could be releasing public alerts in 2020.

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

Catered Lunch

1:00 PM - 1:45 PM

Public Safety Broadband Network and implications for Canadian Electric Utilities
Speaker(s): Sol Lancashire, OT and Telecom Architect, PSBN Project Initiator, BC Hydro, Eugene Crozier, Wireless Specialist, Powertech Labs, Inc., Vidya Vankayala, Director, Grid Modernization, Powertech Labs, Inc.

Utilities are operating in increasingly difficult constraints on their capital and opex budgets. Over the past several years, utilities have started experiencing increased pressures due extreme events such as wild fires, unexpected equipment failure, sabotage and crew/public safety mishaps. To address this, utilities are looking at using automation, communication technologies to provide adequate emergency response. This presentation discusses the use of PSBN within the utility operating environments to enhance emergency response and management capabilities. Wild fire mitigation and equipment failure will be used as examples to illustrate the technology, people and process aspects of this new development.

1:45 PM - 2:00 PM


2:00 PM - 2:30 PM

WRMAG RAMP-UP Roadmap Discussion
Facilitator(s): Erin Swearingen, Senior Program Manager, Enterprise Business Continuity, Avista Corp.
Speaker(s): Christopher Eisenbrey, Senior Director, Preparedness & Recovery Policy, Edison Electric Institute

RAMP-UP is a tool that the WRMAG uses to track resource requests and offers during incidents, regionally and nationally.  Earlier this year, the Edison Electric Institute discussed a timeline for creating a RAMP-UP road-map.  The purpose of the road-map is to identify potential enhancement opportunities for RAMP-UP and build a project plan to complete those “approved” enhancement over the next couple of years. EEI is asking each Regional Mutual Assistance Group (RMAG) to consider having a group discussion at their spring conference to identify improvement opportunities for RAMP-UP.  After the spring conferences are completed, EEI will compile all of the suggestions and schedule a meeting with the NMART Officers to review road-map suggestions and develop the proposed road-map.

2:30 PM - 3:00 PM

Incident Management Software Solutions for Utilities
Speaker(s): Kaleb Brown, Director, International Channel Partners, Juvare

Over the years, the methods used to prepare and respond to incidents have evolved. Incidents effecting utilities are becoming more complex and utilities are held to ever expanding expectations. Is your incident management solution ready at a moment’s notice to support your departmental and enterprise wide critical decision-making when an incident occurs? In this session we will exam what are the characteristics that make for successful incident management solutions for Utilities to address today’s challenges.

3:00 PM - 3:50 PM

Afternoon Open Roundtable
Facilitator(s): Dave Ponozzo, Manager of Emergency Preparedness, Grant County PUD

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

3:50 PM - 4:00 PM

Wrap Up and Action Items

As we wrap up the 2019 Emergency Response + Assistance Practices meeting, we will identify topics for consideration at the 2019 WRMAA Annual Meeting.

5:00 PM - 7:00 PM

Operations Conference Opening Reception

All ERAP program participants are also invited to attend the Operations Conference Welcome Reception.

Hotel + Travel

  • Reservation Instructions
  • The contracted hotel block is now full. Please contact Eric Christenson directly at (971) 303-2118 or email christenson@westernenergy.org for additional options and information on the overflow block.

Meet The Speakers

Bill Steele

University of Washington

Director of Communications and Outreach, Pacific Northwest Seismic Network
Learn More

Bill Steele has directed the Educational Outreach and Communications Program for the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN) at the University of Washington, since 1993. He works closely with news reporters and filmmakers to provide hazards information and coordinate scientist involvement in development accurate and interesting news reports and documentaries. Bill also supports interdisciplinary and interagency cooperation between university, government agencies, and private sector organizations to identify earthquake and volcanic hazards, community vulnerabilities, and mitigation opportunities.

Bill has been recently touring the PNW introducing the ShakeAlert, West Coast Earthquake Early Warning Project (EEW) to businesses, utilities and public agencies. He collaborates with companies and public agencies to identify opportunities to implement automated loss reduction actions triggered by ShakeAlerts. Bill manages pilot projects and Technical Assistance Agreements on behalf of the USGS Washington State. He is also seeking to document how EEW can be used to reduce injuries and economic losses during an earthquake and speed recovery. Bill assisted the Whitehouse Office of Science and Technology Policy in the development of the Whitehouse Earthquake Resilience Summit in February 2016 which focused on the promise of the ShakeAlert system.

Bill has also recently helped organize a FEMA Region X volcano risk workshop with the UW Institute Hazard Mitigation and Research and FEMA Region X. This workshop brought together stakeholders from throughout Region X to review new educational materials on volcano hazards and community vulnerabilities and introduced new info sheets on 13 high risk volcanos in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon.

Bill serves on a number of NGO boards including CPARM (Contingency Planners and Recovery Managers), and he is founding member of CREW (the Cascadia Region Earthquake Workgroup). He lives with his wife Mea in the University district where they are tending their gardens and celebrating grandparenthood.

Lanny Sawchuck

BC Hydro

Director, Line Field Operations

Brian Standish

Quanta Services

Vice President, Business Development
Learn More

Brian Standish is Vice President of Business Development for Quanta Services, where he has corporate responsibility for the company’s strategic growth initiatives at an enterprise level, as well as emergency response operations. He also leads Quanta’s business development initiatives around energized services and underground electric.
Prior to his current role he oversaw Quanta’s Marketing and Communications group and held positions in the areas of business development, project management, marketing and operations for several of Quanta’s operating units in both the electric and oil & gas divisions.
Standish is a graduate of Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX, where he received a Bachelor of Business Administration. He and his wife reside in Bellaire, TX with their three children.

Dave Ponozzo

Grant County PUD

Manager of Emergency Preparedness

Joanna Stelzig

Tillamook PUD

Public Relations Manager

Todd Simmons

Tillamook PUD

General Manager

Daniel R. Ervin P.E.

Varius, Inc.

Executive Vice President, Engineer In Responsible Charge
Learn More

Dan is the Executive Vice President of Varius Inc and a registered professional engineer in the State of Washington. For the past 38 years, Dan has specialized in providing consulting engineering services for Northwest municipal utilities as the co-founder and past CEO of RH2 Engineering. Dan has developed some of the most cutting-edge designs for the Northwest’s most innovative projects, from zero-energy homes to earthquake early warning technology.

Sol Lancashire

BC Hydro

OT and Telecom Architect, PSBN Project Initiator

Eugene Crozier

Powertech Labs, Inc.

Wireless Specialist

Vidya Vankayala

Powertech Labs, Inc.

Director, Grid Modernization

Erin Swearingen

Avista Corp.

Senior Program Manager, Enterprise Business Continuity
Learn More

Erin Swearingen is a Certified Business Continuity Professional (CBCP) with over 20 years of experience in business continuity, disaster recovery and emergency preparedness and management. Erin has designed and implemented business continuity programs for various industries including the utility and financial industries.

Erin has been with Avista for over 8 years and has implemented the Enterprise Business Continuity program which includes business continuity, disaster recovery and emergency operations response. She has also developed and implemented emergency response and life safety programs, promoting employee safety, personal preparedness and preparedness education.

Erin currently serves as the Chair of the Western Region Mutual Assistance Group – Executive Committee, and represents the WRMAG as a member of EEI’s Mutual Assistance/Emergency Preparedness Committee. Erin also serves as the President of the Washington State Chapter of the Association of Continuity Professionals (ACP).

Christopher Eisenbrey

Edison Electric Institute

Senior Director, Preparedness & Recovery Policy
Learn More

Chris joined the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) in 2002 and serves as Senior Director, Preparedness & Recovery Policy at the Edison Electric Institute in EEI’s Security and Preparedness Group. Chris is responsible for a number of key business and operations continuity policy issues including national-level mutual assistance and emergency preparedness, spare transformer and equipment sharing programs, emergency cross-sector transportation initiatives, and the industry’s expanding use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Prior to his responsibilities within EEI’s Security and Preparedness Group, Chris led the Institute’s external facing and collaborative industry activities related to smart grid and grid modernization.

Prior to joining EEI, Chris worked at the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the policy organization and trade association of the U.S. nuclear energy industry and International Access Corporation (IAC), a Washington, DC‐based business research and consulting firm specializing in the U.S. and Japanese electric power sectors.

Chris received his undergraduate degree in Politics from The Catholic University of America, and his masters in International Business from The Johns Hopkins University.

Kaleb Brown


Director, International Channel Partners

James Nowak


Sr. Director of Operations, Product and 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.

Robert Howell

Southern California Gas Company

Manager, Pipeline Safety & Compliance and Emergency Management

Lawrence Pillon

BC Hydro

Corporate Affairs Manager, Communities and Capital Projects

Ben Peco

BC Hydro

Senior Manager, Security & Emergency Management

Julianne Mak

Powertech Labs, Inc.

RF Engineer, Grid Modernization

Craig Norman

Varius, Inc.

Project Engineer