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Emergency Planning Drill Helps SCE Prepare for the Unexpected

Outside agencies joined SCE in a recent exercise to respond to a simulated cyber and physical attack.
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Stories : Safety
Stories : Safety

Emergency Planning Drill Helps SCE Prepare for the Unexpected

Outside agencies joined SCE in a recent exercise to respond to a simulated cyber and physical attack.
Photos: Elisa Ferrari

If there was a major cyber and physical attack on Southern California Edison’s power system that shut down electricity to thousands of customers, how would the company respond? And how would it coordinate with law enforcement and other agencies?

During a recent daylong exercise, SCE, working with a host of state, local and federal agencies, tested its response during its annual emergency preparedness drill, one of many exercises the utility conducts every year.

“As a company, we need to protect our customers from potential threats and we work hard throughout the year to prepare and respond to the unexpected,” said Pedro Pizarro, president and CEO of Edison International, SCE’s parent company. “By practicing and building partnerships with key government and industry partners, we can be ready to respond and adapt to threats we might face.”

Cyber Drill
Marc Ulrich, SCE vice president of customer service operations, served as incident commander for a recent emergency preparedness exercise.


SCE has been conducting annual exercises for the past five years. Prior exercises have focused on a variety of potential scenarios that could affect service, ranging from a major earthquake to a rainstorm. 

By practicing and building partnerships with key government and industry partners, we can be ready to respond and adapt to threats we might face.”

Pedro Pizarro
 President and CEO
Edison International 

Because of the potential wide-ranging impacts of a cyberattack, this year’s exercise, with 250 participants, was larger and more complex than in past years. The company’s leadership participated as well as representatives from federal, state and local governmental agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Energy, Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the California Public Utilities Commission and the Port of Long Beach.

Damon Penn, assistant administrator of FEMA’s Response Directorate, noted that the power system is one of Homeland Security’s seven lifelines — a sector that provides an indispensable service needed for recovery.

“This exercise gives us a chance as federal, state and local planners to understand each other and especially what the challenges are,” he said.

As soon as the simulated incident began, SCE activated an Incident Management Team — a group of employees from across the company trained to respond to an event affecting the power grid. 

Teams worked quickly and immediately began assessing the situation, even as the scenario unfolded. One group focused on restoring power. Another addressed the computer system intrusion and a third handled safety and security issues.

The exercise simulated crews being dispatched. SCE’s Local Public Affairs staff coordinated with state, local and federal officials and fielded calls from business customers with critical issues. The communications staff responded to media inquiries and organized a mock news conference to inform the public. Customer service responded to customer concerns.

Glenn Farren, the director of operations at the Port of Long Beach, said it was the first time he had participated in an exercise with SCE and he learned a lot.

“We have an Incident Management Team in the port but it is nowhere near the level of sophistication that SCE had,” he said. “It made it more clear in our eyes how SCE operates.”

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