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Mutual Assistance Serves as Lifeline for Devastated Communities

January 10, 2024

After thunder, lightning, strong winds, rain, snow or ice disrupt power, that’s when restoration work begins. The more boots and trucks on the ground, the better. Indiana Michigan Power (I&M) and its parent company, American Electric Power (AEP), are part of a nationwide group of utility companies that help each other when significant outages occur. 

Line worker walking through thick mud to restore power in Louisiana after Hurricane Ida in 2021.

“Restoring power to customers after a devastating storm is a mission we are proud to tackle. We have a strong desire to help others in their time of need whether that’s here at home or across the country,” said Scott Bennett, Region Support manager. “Mutual assistance is where utility companies join together and pledge to help each other when we need it the most.” 

I&M has answered multiple mutual assistance calls in dozens of states after destructive ice storms, tornadoes and hurricanes. Employees even assisted in 2017 when Hurricane Maria catastrophically damaged Puerto Rico’s electrical power system.

“Our employees are a special group of individuals. It takes dedication and commitment to sign up to leave their families – often at a moment’s notice – and miss important events back home,” said Dave Isaacson, vice president Distribution Region Operations. “When poor weather hits, our priority is restoring power for I&M customers, and once that’s done, it’s common for us to go elsewhere to help. We have a long list of frontline workers who travel out of town to help restore power in different states.”

When I&M responds, a contingent of workers including a management team, damage assessors, safety professionals, fleet mechanics, line workers and tree trimming experts are provided.

Before I&M asks for help from other utilities, it relies on other AEP operating companies. AEP’s emergency preparedness managers decide how to best allocate resources.

“There’s a lot of planning and information gathering before we ask for or provide mutual assistance,” Bennett said. “We engage with AEP’s meteorologists to forecast potential threats at home and where we can help the restoration effort. We also factor in driving distance and ensure there’s a strong balance of our employees across our service area.”

There is a local rotation in place to select which employees will be deployed for storm restoration. If possible, I&M will also send contract crews to join the effort.

“I’m always impressed and appreciative with our employees’ willingness to travel across Indiana and Michigan, in neighboring states, far away states and even across oceans to help restore power to people amid a natural disaster,” Isaacson said. “The sacrifices our employees’ families make so we can help strangers turn their lights on doesn’t go unnoticed either. Often times our deployed workers miss birthdays, holidays and graduations to restore normalcy to others.”

Regardless of an outage here at home or across the United States, rest assured I&M will be there to make sure your lights, air conditioning and heat is back on as safely and as quickly as possible. 

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