Lifelines utilities coordination during emergencies

Learn about how lifeline utilities are coordinated in response and recovery to an emergency event.

Lifeline utilities coordination is necessary in both response and recovery. Coordination streamlines activities and ensures effective information flow between lifelines and Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM).

CDEM Groups coordinate local lifeline utilities across affected regions. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) coordinates lifeline utility sectors at the national level. Lifeline utilities must coordinate at the national level as necessary. This is to provide appropriate capacity during CDEM emergency of national significance.

Emergency responses are tailored according to the needs of the event. Lifeline utility coordination may be needed even if there is not a state of emergency.

Lifeline utility and CDEM response and recovery coordination usually begins when:

  • a lifeline utility service is disrupted in more than one territorial authority area,
  • multiple lifeline utility services are disrupted by an event,
  • significant community impacts are expected because of lifeline utility service disruption,
  • CDEM and lifeline utilities need to coordinate, and
  • an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) or Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) is activated.

Lifeline Utility Coordinators (LUC) are non-statutory roles in an operations centre or recovery office. At the national and regional level, LUCs support the Controller and  Recovery Manager. Most CDEM Groups have a nominated LUC who will work in the ECC

CDEM Group LUCs lead coordination in their own emergency operations or recovery offices. They are a link to coordination at other operation centres or recovery offices.  They may also support coordination at another operations centre or recovery office.

During readiness, LUCs:

  • take part in training and exercises,
  • maintain relationships with key representatives of lifeline utilities and NEMA or CDEM Groups, and
  • provide advice to NEMA or CDEM Groups about lifeline utility response issues.

The CDEM Competency Framework includes a role map for LUCs. This outlines the skill, knowledge and attributes required for this role.

Download a copy of the LUC Competency Framework Role Map (pdf 505k).

Operational arrangements

Most CDEM Groups have agreed protocols that detail how regional coordination will work. During emergencies, lifeline utilities are generally expected to:

  • establish contact with the CDEM Group ECC and provide information on the status of their network;
  • receive and action CDEM Group reports; and
  • provide information where possible, including:
    • the scale and extent of impact on networks,
    • major disruptions experienced, including location and number of users affected,
    • estimated restoration times for known disruptions,
    • priority areas of response actions,
    • alternative solutions available to ,(where appropriate);
    • precautions and public information to be shared, and
    • requests for support or specific information.

NEMA and CDEM Groups:

  • analyse information supplied by lifeline utilities,
  • provide advice to the Controller,
  • Provide lifeline utility information for media releases, situation reports and central government reports,
  • coordinate requests for resources from lifeline utilities, and
  • enable transition to recovery.

Sector Coordinating Entities

Sector Coordinating Entities (SCE) set national sector coordination before an emergency event. They provide a single point of contact for each lifeline sector. They also help ensure clear reporting lines within sectors and to LUCs.

An SCE is an organisation, a group of sector representatives, or an individual agreed by the sector. In an emergency event, they:

  • help resolve issues that do not need Government support,
  • provide information to operations centres and recovery offices,
  • contribute to CDEM planning,
  • Distribute relevant CDEM information to their sector;
  • coordinate requests for help with the lead agency,
  • coordinate with other affected sectors, and
  • other operational tasks as needed.

The scale, impact and speed of an event will determine the need for sector coordination. SCEs often activate in large events where many providers are affected.