Burns & McDonnell
Ahsan Upal is a regional manager with Burns & McDonnell responsible for Canadian business development and leading engineering, project management and regulatory teams for major electrical distribution and transmission projects across Canada and the United States.
In the face of the pandemic, how do utilities continue to manage and maintain the same reliability and service their customers have come to expect? The good news is that utilities are already accustomed to managing disruptions.
Granted that the present circumstances are unique, electric utilities have extensive experience working through rapidly evolving scenarios like tornadoes, floods, wildfires, and other weather and system fault events with huge impacts on electrical infrastructure.
The catch is retaining the people power to get through those challenges. It is commonplace for companies to say their most valuable resource is their people, but the pandemic has complicated utilities' abilities to access that resource.
Several measures can help mitigate the challenges to continuous service.
In the Office
It begins with putting communications and education in place so employees and customers know the company's direction and how it is evolving. This should come directly from senior management. Employees should have a clear understanding of what is expected and of the rules of engagement. How should routine activities adapt to social distancing guidelines, for example?
The roles of control room operators and maintenance crews are critical to day-to-day operations, and their functions can't be performed from home, so they need to be in their native workplaces with enhanced safety guidelines.