To read this content please select one of the options below:

Developing disaster mutual assistance decision criteria for electricity industry

Ali Asgary (York University, Toronto, Canada)
Ben Pantin (Toronto Hydro-Electric System Limited, Toronto, Canada)
Bahareh Emamgholizadeh Saiiar (Business Continuity, TD Bank Financial Group, Toronto, Canada)
Jianhong Wu (York University, Toronto, Canada)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 3 April 2017




Disaster mutual assistance (DMA) or mutual aid is a reciprocal arrangement between organizations that permits and prearranges one company to access resources from another company to recover from disaster impacts faster. As a practical tool to access response resources quickly, DMA can be an important element of an effective emergency management process, but the decision to provide (or not to provide) DMA is challenging and involves a number of factors. The purpose of this paper is to present the results of a study conducted to identify DMA decision criteria and their weights based on electricity companies operating in North America.


The authors employed a combination of Delphi and analytical hierarchy process (AHP) methods. Delphi method identified the decision criteria that should be considered before electricity utilities enact their DMA agreements. A standard AHP calculated the weights of identified DMA criteria.


In total, 11 criteria were identified and classified into three main groups: responding criteria, requesting criteria and disaster criteria. Of the 11, “Emergency Conditions” within the responding criteria group, “Extent of Damage” of the requesting criteria group, and “Size of Disaster”, associated with the disaster criteria group, had the highest weight. Three other factors (“Work Safety Practice”, “Natural Hazards” and “Availability of Resources”) carried a noticeable weight difference, while the remaining factors were weighted relatively lower.

Practical implications

At present, a decision to provide mutual assistance is highly subjective, based on “gut feel”, and dependent on interpersonal relationships between the requestor and the provider. However, mobilizing and dispatching electricity industry crews is a risky and costly operation for both requesting and responding companies and requires careful assessment for which a cost-benefit threshold has not been developed. This cost-benefit perspective is often frowned upon owing to the intended altruistic nature of DMA agreements and its influence on decision makers. The developed criteria in this study are intended to assist electricity companies in making a more informed and quantifiable decision when deliberating a request for mutual assistance. These criteria may also be used by assistance-requesting companies to better identify electricity companies that are more likely to provide assistance to them.


This study contributes to the literature by examining the current state of DMA in electricity utilities, identifying decision criteria and weighing such criteria to enable electricity companies in making more objective decisions, thereby, increasing the overall effectiveness of their disaster management process.



This research has been partially facilitated and funded through the Advanced Disaster, Emergency and Rapid-response Simulation (ADERSIM) initiative at York University, which is funded by the Ontario Research Fund (ORF), Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC-CREATE). The research is also partially funded by Toronto Hydro-Electric System Limited.


Asgary, A., Pantin, B., Emamgholizadeh Saiiar, B. and Wu, J. (2017), "Developing disaster mutual assistance decision criteria for electricity industry", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 26 No. 2, pp. 230-240.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles