Sometimes, when we’re researching ways to get a point across about outage restoration and emergency preparedness, we run across an article from an outside source that really hits home. Just the other day I stumbled onto one such article from a blog called Connected Principals, which features content written by elementary school leaders. What caught my eye was a post from the principal of Wolcott Elementary School that featured an interesting analogy that I immediately equated with storm duty in the utility industry:
In the days of yore, the captain of a ship would have the Boatswain (or Bosun) use his pipe to make the “all hands” call when he wanted the entire crew up on deck and ready for action. Everyone, no matter what their role, no matter when their last duty shift, no matter how busy on another project, were expected to stop what they were doing, assemble on deck and, presumably, focus on the crisis at hand.
This particular post struck a chord with me because in the utility business, the call for emergency outage restoration “all hands on deck” always comes under the most challenging of conditions – sweltering heat, subzero vortexes, iced-up lines, gale force winds, fire, flood, earthquake or worse – all conditions that can challenge the resilience of even the most dedicated worker.
Unfortunately, it’s exactly such conditions that require all hands on deck to help restore customers’ light, heat and water as quickly and safely as possible. And to be “on deck” really means “drop what you’re doing and pitch in…now!”
Having a crisis plan for known threat levels isn’t all that exceptional or unusual in emergency planning, but the application of that model at Wolcott Elementary is extraordinary. The staff there has obviously bought into the concept of “drop everything” hook, line and sinker, largely due to the employees’ devotion to their students. And by all appearances, they are directed by an inspirational leader who is not afraid to share his admiration of their performance.
And if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of the people who either makes the “all hands” call, or you’re one of the primary or second role employees that would typically respond to such a call. In either case, when the call comes down it’s likely you’re stressed, overworked, under-resourced and unappreciated in the daily workings of your organization. And adding the metaphorical insult to injury, the wider populace may not appreciate everything you do to keep the lights on, the hearth warm and the water flowing. As the saying goes, customers don’t know what they’ve got till it’s gone…and once it’s gone, boy are they unhappy!
But without the plans you’ve worked so hard to hone, without the training you do, without the drills and exercises and debrief process you oversee or participate in, the effort to put things back together after an emergency event would be something akin to a hopeless mess.
So as this year draws to a close, if nobody else thinks to tell you, know this: when it comes to emergency outage restoration, you are a hero to unseen thousands who don’t know you exist. And if everything goes well, that’s probably the way it should be.