PEC’s collaborative effort across all departments is what it took to combat the effects of Winter Storm Mara in early February.
Employees stepped in to do jobs beyond their comfort zone to assist other departments in communicating with members. Kat Jones, PEC’s controller, said members of the finance team assisted in taking member calls, and both accounting and procurement staff created service orders to ensure the outage map was up to date based on member communications.
“Procurement team members worked through the night from their cars, due to their home power being out, to ensure we had materials delivered to the districts for system repairs,” she said. “People from all areas of finance and human resources organized, delivered, and served meals to our district staff and lineworkers to ensure our field colleagues had the energy needed to perform the essential work of getting power back to our members.”
Our member relations team fielded a variety of phone calls, from concerns about restoration times to reports of downed power lines and other hazards on members’ properties.
“Our employees are trained to recognize hazards and report them to our control center so crews can be dispatched,” PEC Member Experience Manager Caroline DeCamp said. “We are diligent about safety education when speaking with our members, and advise them not to touch any lines or wires at any time.”
PEC staff also carried out wellness checks for locations with extreme hazards, members without access to water, and members medically dependent on electricity.
“These teams helped procure temporary solutions to aid members until normal conditions were restored,” DeCamp said.
Our supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) team — considered the eyes of our service operation — saw a high volume and speed of outages during the storm, which became an immediate concern, said William Ewing, our SCADA operations manager.
“We immediately increased staffing to help with sorting and prioritizing, and worked with district operations to get crews assigned as quickly as possible,” Ewing said.
While the volume of calls and radio traffic into the Distribution Operations Center (DOC) was enormous, communication between lineworkers and the DOC remained strong.
“I am grateful for the hard work, dedication, and perseverance demonstrated by our lineworkers and operators, and communication is a key element of that process,” he said.
While the task was tough on everyone, our focus always remained on our members.
“First off, we have great employees!” DeCamp said. “Plus, many of our employees live in PEC’s territory and are members themselves, often experiencing the same power outages.
“Our staff works hard all year long and our management team is dedicated to employee development,” she continued. “We train for situations like these, and are prepared with emergency protocols and constant communication.”
The member-focused mindset can also be seen in the strength of our infrastructure.
“As a co-op, PEC prioritizes its members above its bottom line,” Ewing said. “As a result, we have some of the most robust infrastructure in the country.
“It was a tireless, nonstop, 24/7 operation to repair and rebuild infrastructure to get the lights back on as quickly as possible,” he added. “I couldn’t be more proud and thankful for the incredible effort of our SCADA operators and lineworkers involved.”
As for Jones, the reason for such quality teamwork was everyone’s focus on our members.
“I believe human beings are social creatures who want to feel like they belong, and they are part of something bigger than themselves,” she said. “Working at PEC gives us all those feel-good vibes, and we all want to help our family of colleagues in any way we can.”