While the world is focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and some areas are literally locked down, essential work must go on. Nature isn’t waiting for the crisis to end, it will create its own crises this summer as it always does: thunderstorms, tornados, hurricanes, and other phenomenon. Across the country, workers are preparing for these normal summer events.

Con Edison crews are preparing to respond to any outages that occur as thunderstorms and powerful wind gusts hit the New York City area all while following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines during the health emergency. Personnel responding to the events have been instructed to practice social distancing with each other and members of the public in order to keep everyone safe from the coronavirus even as they battle natural events.

The company has arranged for 20 additional contractor workers to assist Con Edison’s field crews in repairing damaged overhead equipment and get customers back in service. All personnel responding to outages will remain focused on maintaining safe, reliable service while protecting their families, customers and themselves.

Strong winds can push trees and branches into overhead power lines and bring those lines down, causing customers to lose service. Storms also bring lightning, which can strike the electrical delivery equipment or trees. Depending on the severity of storm damage, crews will give priority to restoring service lines that will provide power to the most customers as quickly as possible, then move on to restore smaller groups and individual customers.

In the heartland, although Glenn Campbell (1936-2017) has left us, the Wichita Lineman is still on the job. Evergy linemen and field teams continue to keep electricity flowing in their communities and are prepared to respond to storms. Linemen fulfill a critical need, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers are asked to not approach them if they are working in the area.

Evergy is also following guidelines of maintaining six feet of space for employees. Crews are scheduled so that the same crew members work together each day to reduce potentially spreading the coronavirus should one member of the team become infected. Evergy is cleaning and disinfecting facilities where employees are reporting to work, including power plants that require 24/7 staffing.

Further north, Chicago area firefighters are getting training in handling events involving solar panels. As the prevalence of solar panels increases, so too do the risks for firefighters who with them in an emergency. Electrocution, exposure to hazardous substances, and roof collapse from improper installations are just a few of the risks firefighters face when they encounter solar panels on the job.

Training is being done under the umbrella of Powering Chicago, a project of Chicago’s IBEW Local 134 and the Electrical Contractors’ Association of City of Chicago. The program, which can be completed at the fire department’s facilities or at the IBEW/NECA Technical Institute, focuses on system awareness and identification, safety concerns and hazard mitigation, and codes and standards affecting solar and energy storage.

In recent weeks, members of IBEW Local 134 and the ECA (Electrical Contractors’ Assn. of City of Chicago) have powered the rapid expansion of medical facilities throughout Cook County, maintained critical electrical infrastructure needed to treat COVID-19 patients at existing facilities, provided available N95 masks to hospital staff and supported an area nonprofit heavily impacted by the outbreak of the virus. With the number of COVID-19 cases continuing to rise in Chicagoland, much of this work is ongoing.

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