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Prioritizing Health and Safety
By: Chris Reese, President & CEO
If someone had approached you in January and said that in two months you would be spending weeks under orders to stay at home, local businesses and all schools would be closed, and travel would grind to a halt, would you have believed them?
I don’t think I would have. But the unbelievable has become our shared reality. Our families, our community, and our cooperative will no doubt feel the effects of this pandemic for a long time to come, in ways we have not yet even anticipated.
It is often amidst the most trying of circumstances that it becomes apparent what we can truly count on. We can take comfort in our first responders and medical professionals, selflessly putting the welfare of others ahead of their own well-being. We can take comfort in our local businesses, adapting to serve community needs however they can. And you can take comfort in your electric cooperative, keeping the lights on and supporting members and communities. Whether it be from bucket trucks or from their home offices, cooperative employees are still hard at work.
Electric service is not optional. Like a sufficient supply of food and water, reliable electricity is critical, especially in times like these. This is not only to ensure your health and safety, but also to provide power to your virtual classrooms and home offices. Please know that Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative has taken all safety precautions and follows all federal and state guidance in protecting its employees while continuing to stay open and keeping the lights on.
At the time we are writing this column, our offices remain closed to the public with most of our employees working remotely. Unfortunately, based on the current circumstances, the state’s stay at home order, and the ban on large gatherings, along with factoring in the amount of time we need to plan for it, we have found it necessary to cancel our 83rd Annual Meeting of Members that had been scheduled for June 8, 2020. This is the first time since 1937 that Sussex Rural has had to cancel its Annual Meeting.
This pandemic has created a lot of firsts. Graduations have been cancelled, the NRECA Youth Tour was cancelled, professional sports have been delayed and/or cancelled - the list of firsts is seemingly endless. At this time, since we cannot be certain what fall will bring, postponement is not really an option and so the Board of Directors has canceled the meeting entirely. By now, our Annual Report should have arrived to all members with their May bill or it can be viewed on our website at www.sussexrec.com/2020-report. The election of directors by mail runs through May 29th.
Nonprofit electric co-ops like Sussex Rural are locally owned and operated, charged with keeping costs low for our members. This charge is especially important in times like these, as we see unemployment at unprecedented levels and budgets being stretched thinner than ever. We recognize that there will be an economic impact on all of us. Because of this, we are working directly with our members to make payment arrangements to ease some stress from these times of worry. If you are having difficulty keeping up with your electric bill payments, please call our office. Our Member Services department is working with anyone facing hardship due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Keeping our employees and our members safe is always our top priority. We are using best practices, good judgment, and safety precautions to better serve you. We are also utilizing innovative ways to work together from safe spaces, including video meetings and conferencing, document sharing and collaboration, and more.
Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative is working diligently, with respect for you in mind. We will continue evaluating the pandemic status to determine our future decisions and course of action. We know you rely on safe, reliable electric service, and we will continue doing our best to serve you. Please stay safe and stay healthy!
Prioritizing Health and Safety
By: Steve Sokolowski, Marketing Associate
During an outage, it is critical for utilities to have open communication with those affected. While some outages are unavoidable, a lengthy power outage poses a huge inconvenience to consumers.
This is why Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative strives to always keep our members informed during an ongoing outage. While we work to fix the problem, we want our members to be able to see its location, the number of others affected, and when a crew has been dispatched.
We’ve been able to share this information using our online outage map, found at outages.sussexrec.com. For those who haven’t made use of it, this is a digital map of our service territory that displays outages on our system in real-time to help members visualize the affected areas and receive an estimate of when we can have power restored. This outage map has been a reliable resource that members can turn to for information during an outage.
Just as we at Sussex Rural Electric are always striving to improve and upgrade our system and service, we want to ensure that the communication tools that we offer to our members are the best they can possibly be. In honor of this, the outage map has recently undergone an update.
The most obvious changes are aesthetic, but these all aim to improve ease-of-use for our members. The user interface has been simplified to remove clutter and the map has a new, more detailed look. Members can now choose between three map settings – a topographic map, a satellite map, and a night view – to customize their experience. There is also a new weather view setting. When we are experiencing inclement or extreme weather, you can now toggle a RainViewer radar that will display movement of a storm across our map.
The menu on the left side of the map displays a graph with a 48-hour summary. This lets you track the total number of meters out of power over the previous two days. The way that we display outages has also been changed. The old version of the map would mark areas in various colors and add a hard hat when crew had been dispatched. We’ve simplified this, now marking areas with a hexagon in one of three colors – red for verified outages, orange for predicted outages, and dark blue for restored outages. Inside these shapes, it shows the number of meters currently without power and displays an image of a lineman once a crew has been dispatched.
The outage menu shows each outage’s start time and the time of estimated restoration. We aim to make these estimates as accurate as possible, but please keep in mind that there is always a level of unpredictability when it comes to outages. Another tree may fall, the restoration process may take longer than expected - sometimes things happen that are not planned. We try to update the estimated time of restoral as accurately as possible, but please be aware that it is not an exact prediction.
We also have a guide built-in to the new map to improve accessibility. If there are any tools on our outage map that you need explained, simply click the question mark icon and then the tool’s icon for more information. This is a small but important new feature that we hope will make our outage map easy to use for everyone.
Accessibility and ease-of-use are at the heart of this update. Our outage map is a tool that we’d like all of our members to be able to take advantage of, regardless of how tech savvy they may or may not be. We hope that these changes will make it so everyone can feel comfortable using our outage map and making good use of the information it provides.