Restoring power outages in the wake of three back-to-back hurricanes seems almost impossible. But Alabama Power employees were up to the challenge last fall when they traveled hundreds of miles to get the lights back on after hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Nate.
In recognition of employees’ tireless efforts, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) announced today that Alabama Power has once again earned two of its prestigious Emergency Response awards. Alabama Power received EEI’s Recovery Award for quickly restoring service to Alabama customers after Hurricane Nate and the Assistance Award for coming to the aid of peer utilities following Harvey and Irma.
EEI’s Emergency Response Awards recognize electric utilities that go the extra mile to restore service after storms or other natural disasters. Through the years, Alabama Power has received 19 EEI Recovery and Assistance awards – more than any other utility within the Southern Company system.
The tireless work by Alabama Power crews during Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Nate exemplify our industry’s commitment to customer service,” said EEI President Tom Kuhn. “Your crews worked diligently and often in dangerous conditions to restore service to customers safely and as quickly as possible. The dedicated crews of Alabama Power are very deserving of these awards.”
“We know that customers depend on us to keep the power on, so we work hard every day to be ready for any situation,” said Mark Crosswhite, Alabama Power chairman, president and CEO. “Everyone at Alabama Power is committed to putting customers first, and we are honored to be recognized by EEI.”
Employees first stepped into action when they traveled to Houston in late August to assist CenterPoint Energy after Hurricane Harvey, which dropped more than 40 inches of rain on eastern Texas before it exited the state.
A team of 25 specially trained employees were dispatched to the area with airboats, drones and other equipment to help with power restoration in heavily flooded areas. It was the first time that Alabama Power had used airboats or drones to help in out-of-state restoration efforts.
Only days after returning to Alabama, employees were called on again to assist neighboring utilities. In the wake of Hurricane Irma, they first restored service for more than 71,000 customers at home, and then hit the road to assist in responding to massive outages caused by Irma in Georgia and central and south Florida.
More than 2,300 employees, support personnel and contractors helped Georgia Power Sept. 13-17 respond to the largest number of outages in Southern Company history, with more than 1 million customers in the dark due to Irma. In addition, Alabama Power customer service representatives worked from their home base, answering overflow calls from Georgia Power customers.
After the Georgia Power outages were restored, a smaller team of about 980 employees and contractors headed south to Florida On Sept. 17. There, they worked for the next seven days assisting Florida Power and Light in restoring service to the more than 400,000 customers who were still without power.
While in Florida, Alabama Power employees worked mostly in the hard-hit areas of Palmetto, Bonita Springs, Fort Myers and Naples. When Hurricane Irma swept through the state, it knocked out power to 4.5 million customers and caused widespread damage.
Employees and contractors were soon on the road again, but this time, it was to respond to outages at home caused by Nate.
The hurricane made landfall in Mobile on Oct. 7, bringing high winds, storm surge and causing substantial damage in the Mobile area. It then swept northward, leaving more than 162,000 customers in all six divisions without power.
As soon as conditions allowed, Alabama Power linemen, evaluators and support personnel, along with crews from 11 other utilities, began responding to outages and continued for three days until power was fully restored.
“Our employees are effective in restoring power because they have the best training and skill set in the industry,” said Scott Moore, Alabama Power senior vice president of Power Delivery. “They take great pride in responding to storms and in delivering a level of customer service that is incredible.”
“Likewise, like it or not, we are in an area of the country where storms are almost routine,” he continued. “Our employees get to practice their skills, and because they are so effective, it is not uncommon for other utilities to call and request our assistance in supporting their own restoration efforts.”
Alabama Power received the Emergency Recovery and Assistance awards at the EEI Winter Board and Chief Executives meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Jan. 9-11. A Recovery Award also went to Georgia Power for responding quickly to outages caused by Irma. Additionally, Gulf Power and Mississippi Power were recognized with Assistance Awards for out-of-state restoration efforts following Irma.
“I am very proud of the work our employees engage in on a daily basis, but even more so when our folks respond to storms and natural disasters,” Moore said. “The skills and professionalism these employees display in responding to storms is truly remarkable. To have recognition at the industry level of the hard work our employees perform during challenging times is a true honor.”