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Important: Rich Mountain Electric Cooperative, Inc. (RMEC) will begin deploying an AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure) system over the next ten months. Learn more


What is mutual aid, and why does it matter?

June 5th, 2024

Electric cooperatives employ a variety of methods to reduce the likelihood of power outages — from regular tree trimming, to equipment maintenance and repairs, to local grid updates. But outages do occur, and when they do, co-ops are ready to respond.

Another way co-ops prepare for major outages and disasters is through mutual aid, a collaborative approach to emergency planning. The mutual aid model allows electric co-ops to help each other out during times of need. This approach permits co-ops to “borrow” restoration workers from other co-ops, thereby increasing the workforce response to areas impacted by a major outage event. It’s essentially about neighbors helping neighbors, even when those neighbors are fellow co-ops located hundreds of miles away.

Electric co-ops were formed to provide reliable electric service to our members at the lowest reasonable cost, and mutual aid has been a fundamental part of our DNA since co-ops were formed. The concept of mutual aid originated with the rural electrification efforts in the 1930s. From the very beginning, electric co-ops relied on each other to assist in times of need, and mutual aid provides an essential safety net in times of crisis.

Mutual aid ultimately benefits our members. During major outage events, we can increase our workforce and respond more quickly, leading to shorter outage times for members.

During major outage events, a variety of equipment is necessary to complete repairs, including bucket trucks and other specialized vehicles, utility poles, transformers and wires. Skilled lineworkers, tree trimmers, damage assessors and other key personnel are also often shared among co-ops. These experts provide critical skills and manpower to speed up the restoration process.

Today, mutual aid continues to be a vital part of how electric co-ops operate and serve members of our local communities. The goal of mutual aid is to restore power as quickly and safely as possible after a major outage event.

By sharing resources, co-ops can significantly enhance our response capabilities. In essence, mutual aid embodies the sixth cooperative principle of “Cooperation Among Cooperatives” and ensures our members receive reliable electricity even in the face of major challenges.

In April, the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas sent line crews to Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi to restore power after severe weather. The goal of mutual aid is to restore power as quickly and safely as possible after a major outage event.

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