Insights > Entergy GridEx: Planning for the worst-case scenarios, and then some
Entergy GridEx: Planning for the worst-case scenarios, and then some
Entergy team members train for, and have been through, some of the worst disasters to impact the communities we serve. Hurricanes, tornadoes and winter ice storms are often described as “having a mind of their own,” but advanced planning and training makes the overall response as immediate and efficient as possible.
But: What about two hurricanes making landfall at the same time? A cyber attack during a major winter event? A domestic terrorist incident targeting our grid?
That’s where the Entergy GridEx training exercises come in.
“GridEx is a tabletop exercise on steroids,” according to Incident Response VP Louis Dabdoub. “We try to think of extreme but very possible scenarios that could impact how we operate as a business, and bring in people from every corner of our company to participate in the drill.”
Months of planning go into formulating what kind of hypothetical threats will emerge during the exercise. Most participants are kept in the dark about how the exercise will unfold “live,” minute-to-minute, across two days. Incident Response Senior Specialist William White is responsible for organizing and executing each step of the drill, working to make it as realistic as possible.
“The events in GridEx unfold in real time, and intentionally throws in situations we have yet to face as a company,” White said. “For example, how would we deal with someone physically attacking one of our substations at the same time we’re already ramping up for a major winter storm? We can’t plan for every scenario, but GridEx stress-tests our existing response plans in a controlled environment. And it can honestly show where we are ready, and where we need to make immediate improvements in critical areas.”
Just like in a real event, a natural and/or man-made threat to Entergy’s operations can require the input of nearly every department of our company: Not just operations and incident response but IT, communications, human resources, finance, and others. And one new aspect introduced in GridEx VII was the participation of several key community partners and stakeholders, according to Dabdoub.
“For the first time, we had observers from local, state and federal agencies, as well as regulatory bodies,” Dabdoub said. “These included the FBI, Homeland Security, state emergency response officials, and others who also deal with natural disasters and man-made threats. These are the same people we will be working with in a crisis situation, so it was a logical next step to invite them into our GridEx events.”
White says one recurring theme has emerged in the takeaways of the GridEx exercises: The critical role of communications at all levels, especially before a threat arises. “These drills bring together people from departments that don’t often interact, and there’s often an “a-ha!” moment in the middle of the exercise where they connect the dots on areas of common responsibilities to solve a problem. GridEx shows the more we communicate across units and departments during blue skies, the better we can respond in a crisis.”