Memphis Utility Mitigates Earthquake Risk to Electrical Grid

Wednesday, October 08, 2008 | 4:00am

NASHVILLE – Governor Phil Bredesen today announced the release of $3,415,006 for two projects in Tennessee through the Federal Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant program. In Shelby County, a grant of $2.6 million will allow Memphis Light, Gas & Water to reduce the risk to its electrical grid from earthquakes.

“This project is a good example of a proactive step designed to protect the citizens of Tennessee,” said Bredesen. “Successful mitigation efforts can reduce substantially the amount of public money that has to be spent later for disaster recovery efforts.”

In Memphis, the mitigation project will involve conducting seismic retrofits on 110 high-voltage transformers. The retrofits mean these key pieces of the electrical grid will be less likely to sustain damage during an earthquake. Installed before seismic standards had been adopted, these transformers are currently unanchored and represent 63 percent of the electrical transformers in the system.
If these transformers were to fail from an earthquake, it would impact a substantial portion of the electrical service in Shelby County and the surrounding service area. This would affect more than 900,000 residents, according to the grant application.
“Mitigation is often overlooked, but by preventing a crisis from occurring, it can save lives and money,” said Jim Bassham, director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, which oversees management of the grants.
The retrofit is expected to save $5.50 for every dollar spent, based on the benefit-cost analysis conducted as part of the grant application process.
The Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant program, administered by FEMA, provides funds to states, territories, Indian tribal governments, communities and universities for hazard mitigation planning and the implementation of mitigation projects prior to a disaster event. Funding these plans and projects reduces the overall risks to the population and structures, while also reducing reliance on funding from actual disaster declarations.
By performing mitigation projects for hazards that could affect an area, local governments are able to reduce the potential damage and consequently the costs of responding to disasters.
More information on FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program can be found online at

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency