Training Tools Spotlight: Emergency Response Team in Action

By Josh Beaver, Vice President

In early September, Hurricane Irma struck Florida after ravaging several Caribbean islands. It was the first major hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. since 2005, and was among the most intense hurricanes in recorded history. Before making landfall, several CNUC employees began making initial preparations and quickly mobilized to cities throughout Florida. Once the storm had passed through their designated areas, it was time to begin assessing the damage and assisting our clients. It was a daunting task; the challenge of restoring power to more than nine million customers was indeed a tall order. Many of the employees involved in the effort had previous storm restoration experience, but Hurricane Irma proved to be a challenge from the beginning stages. Where to begin when dealing with the aftermath of such an intense storm? It’s a tough question, but one that can be answered by CUFs that have the appropriate training.

CNUC provides detailed training to our Emergency Response Team (ERT) members on a variety of topics that are pertinent to storm restoration efforts. Specific procedures are reviewed with the team that encompass the entire event, from mobilization to the much-welcomed release date. These procedures provide a somewhat loose guideline to follow since all storm events are managed differently, depending on the host utility. Important safety topics are also covered during ERT training sessions which primarily focus on the importance of safety and situational awareness during storm events. This training has resulted in a team of highly qualified CUFs capable of providing excellent service to our customers. That said, we encountered challenges with Hurricane Irma that we were not anticipating which resulted in a few unexpected changes being made.

Hurricane Irma was a challenge primarily because many of our ERT members were unable to provide assistance. Many of them work on contracts that were not deemed eligible, so therefore they were forced to sit on the sidelines. To counter this challenge, CUFs working on participating contracts were able to step in and provide assistance. Another challenge became apparent: some of the CUFs that stepped in to assist had not received formal ERT training. To help remedy the situation, we asked our veteran members to provide the necessary support. The less experienced CUFs did a fantastic job and acclimated quickly to the ever-changing conditions which are synonymous with storm work. A valuable lesson for future storm events became exceedingly clear. Our ERT members are ready to mobilize at a moment’s notice, but they may not be eligible to participate. To counter this issue, CNUC will begin providing more detailed storm training to our entire staff so that everyone will have an opportunity to participate. This will allow all willing CUFs, who get the proper clearance from our clients and the host utility, to participate and help make a difference. We plan to begin providing emergency response/electrical hazard training once a year, starting in January 2018. A quiz associated with the training must be successfully completed to ensure we’re sending our most knowledgeable employees. We believe this training will help elevate our entire staff and help make us the most sought-after storm service assistance company in the industry.

Our goal at CNUC is to provide unparalleled service offerings, and we believe this additional training will help us achieve that. Having an entire workforce capable of providing assistance during natural disasters is not only a benefit to the UVM industry, it’s a benefit to our civilization as a whole.