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Crisis brings the best in co-ops

Chris Meyers

Summer is here, and the virus that has plagued Oklahoma, our nation and the world remains active. In one way or another, COVID-19 has left few unaffected. This month, the cover feature of Oklahoma Living magazine tells the story of health care workers who are diligently responding to this health crisis in rural Oklahoma. Their heroic efforts are to be commended. Through their commitment, hard work and compassion for others, healthcare workers and first responders are a beacon of light in the communities they serve.

As we contemplate on their COVID-19 journey and contributions, your rural electric cooperative is proud to be a part of this story. Regarded as an essential service, reliable electricity is crucial for the continuity of health care, first responder services, business operations and the comfort you enjoy at home.

This challenging time has proven once again that electric co-ops are well-versed in operating and adapting to trying circumstances. Like other businesses, electric cooperatives have developed business continuity and pandemic plans to protect the people working for them and to ensure energy operations and infrastructure are supported properly throughout an emergency. Planning for a health emergency, such as the one presented by COVID-19, is unique from other business continuity planning because it requires businesses to prepare and operate with a significantly smaller workforce, a threatened supply chain, and limited support services for an extended period of time at an unknown date in the future. However, our emergency response plans and tabletop simulations have equipped co-ops to be more prepared than many other organizations. Co-ops are part of a network—locally, regionally and nationally—that rises up in the face of adversity.

Working from a preemptive approach, co-ops take proactive measures to establish situational awareness within their service territories, make ahead-of-time preparations to address disruptions of power, and/or potential workforce shortages, and develop appropriate responses benefitting each consumer-member.
As part of this intense preparation, co-ops also make plans for sequestering additional operating facilities to safeguard generation, transmission and delivery of power and critical equipment and supplies needed to restore power and to keep power flowing. Electric co-ops must also determine established contacts with mutual aid assistance networks to assess the availability of additional resources if there are not enough workers to perform critical work.

As we have seen time and time again, nothing brings out the best in our co-ops and employees more than a crisis. The pandemic continues to challenge us all, but it also underscores the strength derived from our collaborative efforts.