Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. Lao Tzu
We often recall the latter part of this quote when we are preparing to face a long or arduous task, and need encouragement to just take that first step. To me, the greater message embodied in the quote is to proactively plan, prepare, and execute.
2020 has been a difficult year thus far. I don’t think anyone would dispute the fact that this year has given us more challenges than we would normally expect. I want to discuss two of those challenges in this message.
COVID-19 turned our work and personal lives upside down, beginning in March and continuing to the present time. A year ago, could you have imagined anything that would have come between you and your job, or your normal daily tasks, or your family the way that this virus has? COVID-19 has forced us to look at life from a completely different perspective, and it has shaken our view of the future. Vacation plans have been cancelled. Trade conferences and meetings have either been cancelled or held remotely via video conferencing. Masks and hand sanitizer have become integral parts of our daily lives. We don’t know what school for our children will look like or how safe it will be. We can’t go to movie theaters, sporting events, concerts, dances, weddings, funerals, or any other public event that involves crowds. We have become accustomed to “social distancing” when we do go out and we look for the marks where we are supposed to stand when we are in line. We get uncomfortable when a stranger comes within our personal space. And all of this within a few short months.
Hurricane Hanna made landfall at Port Mansfield, on July 25th at 5:00 pm, as a strong Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 90 mph. Hanna significantly damaged transmission structures in Willacy County, impacting the northeast portion of Magic Valley Electric Cooperative’s service territory. Peak outage numbers reported by Magic Valley were in excess of 84,000 members without power.
Prior to Hanna making landfall, STEC line crews mobilized to Edinburg and Calallen, staging on both sides of the projected path of the storm, and prepared to respond to damage to the transmission system as soon as it was safely possible. As the sun came up on July 26th, five substations were in the dark, and it quickly became obvious that a significant number of transmission poles were on the ground, including a concrete pole. Power Delivery personnel were able to get three of the five substations energized that first day, and preparations for addressing the remaining damage proceeded rapidly as additional damage assessment information became known.
Preparations for the impact of COVID-19 involved the expansion of the Pandemic Response Plan, ensuring that IT capabilities were in place to support remote work, categorizing employees by their capability to work remotely, development of alternate shift schedules, restricted entry to critical locations, securing adequate PPE and hygiene supplies, expansion of video conferencing capabilities, developing and implementing HR policies and procedures to deal with issues related to the pandemic, and establishing schedules for monitoring and reporting of the pandemic as conditions worsened. All of those preparations helped reduce the impact of moving a significant portion of the workforce offsite to work remotely, and helped protect the health of those employees who continued to report to work on site.
STEC’s Hurricane Response Plan contains a number of actions that must be taken before the start of the Hurricane Season, to ensure that adequate supplies and other resources are in place to respond to a storm before one actually develops. By taking those responsibilities seriously, before a crisis develops, we are in a much better position to focus on directing those resources to respond to a storm.
Cicero is quoted as saying, “Advice in old age is foolish; for what can be more absurd than to increase our provisions for the road the nearer we approach to our journey's end.” I respectfully disagree. I am definitely closer to the end of my life journey than I am to the beginning, and I still benefit regularly from advice that I receive, from fresh challenges that develop, and from things that I learn on a daily basis.
I continue to be impressed by the capabilities of STEC’s employees and their commitment to do their jobs to the best of their abilities in the service of our members. Thank you for your professionalism and for your commitment to STEC’s Core Values of Safety, Teamwork, Integrity, and Communication. Working together, I am convinced that we are prepared and capable of facing any challenge that this, or any other year, presents.