A critical partner: ISO-NE staff strengthen relationships in visit to MEMA bunker

Mike Russas, MEMA’s assistant director for operations, offered a presentation on the agency’s history and mission.

From droughts to floods, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) is charged with preparing for the worst—and helping the state and its residents rebound when disaster strikes.

MEMA’s work involves coordinating with local, federal, and other state agencies, as well as organizations like ISO New England. In August, representatives from the ISO’s External Affairs and Corporate Communications teams met with MEMA officials for an update on the agency’s efforts.

ISO-NE’s Eric Johnson, left, and Matt Kakley.

Eric Johnson, the ISO’s director of external affairs, said he was grateful to MEMA for hosting the meeting, which included a presentation by Mike Russas, the agency’s assistant director of operations.  

MEMA is an important partner in ISO New England’s communications with public officials during power system emergencies, Johnson said, adding that agency staff are often involved in the ISO’s regional training sessions.

“The ISO regularly reviews its communications plan with emergency management agencies and other state and federal officials across New England,” Johnson said. “It’s important to build those relationships so you know who you’re talking to in an emergency.”

The meeting took place at the agency’s headquarters: a Cold War-era bunker that’s home to a one-acre warren of offices, dispatch and command centers, a cafeteria, bunks, and other facilities.

From left to right: Eric Johnson, Matt Kakley, Olivia Zemany, Molly Connors, Jeff Trask, Greg Saulmon, Mike Russas of MEMA, and Nicholas Hutchings.

For Jeff Trask, the ISO’s emergency management and business continuity lead, visiting the bunker was a homecoming; he worked for the state agency for seven years.

“It is wonderful to be working with MEMA again in my role heading up emergency management and business continuity here at ISO New England,” Trask said. “They are a critical partner in emergency planning and response here in the region.”

Participating in the tour with Trask and Johnson were external affairs representatives Nicholas Hutchings and Molly Connors, and communications specialists Matt Kakley, Olivia Zemany, and Greg Saulmon.

Inside ISO New England