Making a Safer Valley

The 2017 eclipse was billions of years in the making—and for TVA Police director Todd Peney’s team it took months of planning to pull off a safe and secure once-in-a-lifetime celestial event.

With record number of visitors at TVA public lands, every parking spot was full and almost every blade of grass was covered by a person craning their neck to view the August 21, 2017, solar eclipse.

“It was a record crowd,” says Todd Peney, Director TVA Police, who estimates that over 10,000 people watched the eclipse at one of 15 TVA recreation areas in the path of totality. Managing crowds this size and ensuring public safety across three states spotlights the value that TVA Police provides to the people of the Valley. They were on hand to protect and serve every skygazer.

TVA Police was formed in 1933 and is a federally commissioned law enforcement agency that protects TVA’s employees, visitors and company assets. TVA Police also have jurisdiction on TVA public lands and lakes. Ensuring a safe eclipse day for everyone on TVA lands was part of the job.

eclipse watchers at Watts Bar

Getting into Alignment

“We started in the spring meeting with the law enforcement and emergency management agencies in our service area that were in the path of the eclipse,” says Peney.

TVA Police have support agreements with every local, county and state agency in TVA’s service area. Peney’s team met with these agencies to provide support and determine what they were expecting and align plans.

Peney recalls that media was reporting that tens of thousands of people could visit Tennessee to watch the eclipse. All campgrounds and hotels were booked months in advance. TVA lands were prime locations for visitors because they offered a free place to view the eclipse.

“We knew it [the eclipse] was going to be big and we took it seriously,” says Peney. In a matter of four months, Peney’s team came up with staffing and protection plans to ensure the large crowds were safe—even from a vehicle attack or other type of attack.

During the eclipse TVA opened two regional command centers; one in Knoxville Tenn., the other in Murphy, N.C. From the command centers TVA could monitor parking and crowd capacity, and move emergency vehicles in/out of areas to support medical emergencies. TVA Police even had back-up communications in the event the cell towers were overloaded by social media traffic.

Planning and coordination with local law enforcement paid off and Peney reports that there were no safety issues at any TVA location during the eclipse.

Peney says that it was a great day for everyone. “We were able to meet people from all over the U.S. who never realized what TVA is or does,” he recalls. “We got a lot of compliments and thank yous from visitors for how easy and organized it all was.”

TVA Police Evolving

Looking at the TVA Act you will see there are more words about public safety than there are about generating power. In the early days, as TVA built facilities, TVA Police patrolled the work camps and guarded against theft and vandalism. Today, TVA Police’s public safety mission has evolved with changing world events.

“Our emphasis has shifted to protecting critical infrastructure and addressing terrorism threats,” says Peney.

To ensure energy keeps flowing, TVA Police works with local, county and state officials across the Valley. “We have good relationships with the public safety teams across the Valley,” says Peney.

According to Peney these relationships pay off because these other officials know exactly who to contact in the event of a threat or emergency. “We are not calling them asking for help,” he explains. “They are calling us asking how can we help you.”

TVA Police uses the latest technology and crime prevention methods. That means the department is focused on preparedness, prevention, intelligence gathering and technology.

“TVA Police will continue to evolve to address emerging threats to the nation’s critical infrastructure and our officers stand ready to respond to any threats, crimes or acts of terrorism.”

Doing Your Part

Report criminal acts and suspicious activity to the TVA Police immediately. Suspicious activity refers to anything that is out of the ordinary—strange cars parked near TVA facilities, people asking unusual questions about TVA or its facilities or anything else that just doesn’t seem quite right. If you suspect criminal activity—including theft or vandalism—call us toll-free at (855) 476-2489, or send us an email at tvap@tva.gov.

If you are in immediate danger, dial 911.

For more information about TVA Police visit their website.