Someone has to make sure the lights stay on and employees of C&T Enterprises are doing that not only during pandemics, but mid-April snowstorms.
Pete Yastishock, director of safety and compliance for C&T Enterprises, said the company began planning for the COVID-19 before the state closed in mid-March. C&T Enterprises provides electric service to about 60,000 customers throughout northern Pennsylvania through its affiliates Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative, Clavarack Rural Electric Cooperative, Wellsboro Electric Co., Valley Energy and Citizens’ Electric Co.
Not only did the company purchase hand sanitizer, disinfectant, disposable gloves and masks for employees, but its staff also began making plans for the future which meant altering their normal operations, Yastishock said.
“In a safety culture, we’re used to working separately out in the field. But to send people home with laptops and rotate shifts of linemen so they’re not exposed at the same time is unique for us,” said Yastishock.
C&T prioritized projects, focusing on critical work for reliability. One of the projects that stayed on the front burner is preparing for the fiber optics communications.
Furthermore, C&T closed offices to the public, created drop-off points for bills and papers and instituted rotating shifts.
For the rotating shifts, a four to five person crew would work one week on construction work and a two-person crew would work the next week on service issues. That allowed the company to divide its employees so that there is only one person per vehicle.
“This is unique to us. We’re used to a big storm or a massive storm,” Yastishock said. “This is a different reaction. We have to react, but it’s not our normal procedure.”
Employees are cooperative and even came up with some ideas to enhance social distancing. Office staff wear masks, stay as far apart as possible and even disinfect door handles and common touch points several times a day. Line crews disinfect steering wheels and vehicle controls they touch before and after each shift.
C&T employees are used to communicating with customers as well as employees working off site. The coronavirus added another layer of challenge as employees working from home were added to the mix. C&T found its call center was able to support communication, explaining to customers what is and is not possible to do during this time.
When snow fell Friday, April 17, C&T was prepared when outages began around 8 p.m. that night.
“We talked about this and how to handle it ahead of time,” Yastishock said.
By midnight, approximately 5,500 customers were without power. Five substations had outages, including three that impacted the Liberty area. Power was restored to all except 700 customers by Saturday night, 400 by Sunday morning and nearly all by noon.
“For us, it’s plan and adjust,” Yastishock said. “We’ve been doing this for the last four to five weeks and hopefully we’ll see this through. For us it’s a key part: making plans and adjusting as things change.”