By Chris Fettes.
The Atlantic hurricane season has been quite an active one. With so many storms, we’ve resorted to using Greek letters to name them. As this issue went to press, we’ve thus far survived hurricane season well, with just a near miss from Hurricane Isaias. But for other places, specifically the Gulf Coast, this year’s storms have broken records and devastated communities. For our neighbors, much more than electric systems have been completely leveled and needed rebuilding. Hurricanes Laura, Sally and Delta claimed lives and destroyed homes.
When help was needed most, help came. We’re proud to have been one of many who brought light— literally—to dark circumstances.
Georgia’s electric cooperatives were quick to respond to requests for aid from co-ops in Louisiana and Alabama, where tens of thousands of their members were without power.
In August, September and again in October, Coastal Electric crews spent weeks in Louisiana, lending a hand to Jeff Davis Electric Cooperative and Beauregard Electric Cooperative. An additional crew traveled to Alabama for a week with Baldwin EMC.
When Coastal Electric Cooperative answers the call to help others after storms, why does that really matter to our members? Because we are stronger together. Cooperation among Cooperatives is one of seven principles that define the way cooperatives operate. Helping each other in times of need is not just what we do. It’s part of what makes us who we are. That also means when we need help, we can count on other cooperatives to do the same, just as many came to our aid after Hurricane Matthew four years ago. (Of course, we’d rather send help than ask for help.) Because we are not-for-profit, we provide this mutual aid to one another with no profit motive, just covering costs. No matter what comes our way, we’re not alone, and we can overcome the unthinkable by working together.
In addition to reinforcing the bonds of a strong cooperative network, sending aid to other co-ops in need provides real-scenario training for our linemen that may come in handy on our own lines.
For many of the linemen who traveled out of state to help after hurricanes Laura, Sally and Delta, this was not their first rodeo. However, they certainly don’t see damage of that magnitude— or such challenging working conditions—on a typical day. Restoring power after a storm requires even the most experienced linemen to solve problems, learn from others in the industry and refine skills they can employ at home.
For linemen who are newer to the profession, these past months have provided their first taste of large-scale hurricane restoration. Even if they haven’t worked a major outage in our community beyond our typical thunderstorms, microbursts and occasional tornadoes, they come back from other areas wielding valuable experience like new tools in their toolbox— not to mention perspective, compassion and a deeper resolve to serve.
Our first priority will always be taking care of our members right here in Coastal Georgia. But when we can, we are more than happy to come to the aid of other cooperatives, carrying out our commitment to help each other for the benefit of all—and maybe learn a few things in the process.
Chris Fettes is CEO of Coastal Electric Cooperative is a not-for-profit, community- owned electric cooperative.