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Ameren, others to run statewide weather exercise

From Illinois Business Journal news services

Increasingly severe and damaging weather across the country is prompting Ameren Illinois and some 30 other state, county and private entities to test their ability to respond.

Ameren, Commonwealth Edison, the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency are partnering with others to simulate a major weather event. The exercise, dubbed “Operation Power Play,” will test the ability of participating organizations to work together to respond if a series of severe storms produced 28 tornadoes throughout Illinois on the same day.

Operation Power Play will be held at Cook County’s new Emergency Operations Center on Friday, June 19. During the exercise, the group will coordinate a comprehensive, multi-agency response to storm damaged areas with a number of partner agencies participating both onsite at the Cook County’s EOC and remotely at locations all around the state. The exercise will kick off at 9 a.m. The Cook County EOC is located on the 340-acre Oak Forest Health Center campus.

“The destructive November 2013 tornadoes in Washington and Gilman tested our ability to safely restore power to nearly 148,000 customers in a 48-hour period,” said Richard J. Mark, president of Ameren Illinois. “Operation Power Play will help us assess our readiness to work with other utilities, first responders and government agencies to manage operations in the event of a far-reaching, catastrophic weather event.”

Michael Masters, the executive director of the Cook County management agency, says it is vital for his department to partner with agencies throughout the state.

“We cannot wait for severe weather to begin the discussion about our response to and recovery from an incident,” said Masters. “We have to build these partnerships and run through multiple scenarios so we are adequately prepared to protect the residents in our jurisdictions.”

Following the exercise, participants will meet to review processes, discuss lessons learned and look for opportunities for improvement.

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