Torrential rains and angry winds invaded our state on Sept. 14 as Hurricane Florence made landfall. A much-anticipated event, Florence brought devastation to North Carolina and heavily affected the members and infrastructure of electric cooperatives across eastern and coastal areas.
As cooperatives, we strive to provide our member-owners with safe, affordable, and reliable service. Therefore, when hurricane-force winds and driving rain trounced the region, South River Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) employees were hoping for the best but were prepared for the worst. Preparations were underway well before Florence made her way to our doorsteps.
Executive Vice President and CEO Chris Spears, his leadership team, linemen and all support staff readied for potential impacts. In order to ensure that any loss of electric service is restored quickly and safely, out-of-state electric cooperatives were contacted and asked to assist. Over 200 additional linemen and tree experts came to the aid of South River EMC.
I can proudly attest that our linemen do a great job every day, but when Mother Nature strikes and wreaks havoc, they work tirelessly in perilous conditions until all power is restored. At the height of the storm, South River EMC had 30,674 of its 44,000 members without power across five counties. Within five days, almost all service was restored that could be restored.
This kind of collaborative effort is the by-product of what we call the cooperative difference. As we celebrate National Cooperative Month in October, this is a perfect time to highlight the seven cooperative principles. These values are shared by cooperatives across the world day-after-day, year-after-year. These rules are; open and voluntary membership; democratic member control; members’ economic participation; autonomy and independence; education, training and information; cooperation among cooperatives; and concern for community.
It is the final two principles that act as guideposts through storms. Cooperatives help one another to restore service to their members and energize communities. We join forces for the greater good. Natural disasters cause a lot of despair, but they also bring out the best in humanity. It is during the darkest hours that neighbors look after neighbors and heroes are born. There were many heroes in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence and many of them wear hardhats and climb poles!
On behalf of the South River EMC Board of Directors, I thank the hardworking line crews, and the staff that supports them, for their dedication to our member owners. Every member of the electric utility community deserves praise, but we are especially proud of the South River EMC employees and those cooperatives, contractors and tree experts who assisted in restoration, for their work ethic. Furthermore, we are especially proud of the blood, sweat and tears South River EMC employees put into our communities daily. We are co-op strong!
Today’s oped piece is from Dr. E. Sue Godwin-Baker, president, South River EMC.