East River Electric and Member Cooperatives Providing Essential Services through Pandemic
East River Electric Power Cooperative has been activating different portions of its Pandemic Response Plan to continue to provide essential electric services to its member cooperatives and municipal electric systems through the coronavirus pandemic. The cooperative has over 140 employees who work out of 8 different communities in South Dakota and Minnesota and provides electricity to member electric systems that serve over 250,000 consumers across the region. East River Electric sent a letter to the South Dakota Office of Emergency Management to update them on the response from electric cooperatives.
“Our top priority is the safety and health of our employees and the public as we continue to provide reliable electric service to our member-owners,” said Tom Boyko. “We’re monitoring the news of the coronavirus closely and have plans in place to respond to multiple scenarios. We hope we don’t have to implement all of these plans, but we’re prepared to do so if we need to. We’ve updated the state Office of Emergency Management to let them know we’re prepared to continue to provide reliable electricity while making sure that our employees are safe.”
Boyko said some of the cooperative’s employees have started remote work schedules, but they have many employees who work on outdoor electric infrastructure including power poles, transmission wires and substations which doesn’t allow these specialized technicians, linemen and others to remote work. Keeping them healthy and on the job is critical in a time like this.
“We provide electric transmission system operations and emergency response services 24 hours a day,” Boyko said. “We will be prepared to respond to any outages or problems on the system if they arise. We have cross-trained employees and have developed work schedules that will ensure that our crews are separated and we’re able to continue to operate the electric system in the event some of our employees can’t report to work. We also have cybersecurity and information technology protocols in place to make sure we have all areas of our service territory and business operations covered.”
In response to the threat of coronavirus, the cooperative has restricted any entry into its facilities, implemented a more frequent cleaning and sanitizing schedule throughout its buildings, minimized unnecessary group interaction and coordinated with interdependent utilities, contractors and suppliers to evaluate how operations could be impacted by potential disruptions. The cooperative will continue to monitor the situation closely and respond according to its emergency response plans.