04 May Collaboration—Now More than Ever
–Sheryl Riggs, UTC Interim President & CEO
Those of us fortunate enough to be in the utility industry know full well how much hard work goes into providing the safe and reliable electricity all of us enjoy each and every day. We know the risks our members take, the safety and resilience practices that are baked in from the start, and the long hours that go into restoring such services after bad storms and other emergencies.
And if there’s one positive to take away from this current pandemic, it is that I believe the country as a whole is becoming much more aware of how valuable and vital electricity is to their daily lives. Everything that our members do—from our core utility members to our associate technology partners—literally powers our country and our world.
UTC’s Twitter feed is full of heartwarming images from people all over the country expressing thanks to utility crews for restoring service and sacrificing time away from their families to keep us powered. I am convinced that when this is over, no one will take for granted the vital services our members provide every hour of every day.
But we don’t do this work alone. Without our associate technology partners, our utilities would not have the critical communications devices they need to monitor critical infrastructure and communicate with crews in the field. Without our police and other public-safety workers, we would have to perform difficult safety and crowd controls ourselves to enforce social distancing and protect our crews that are out along the roads, in neighborhoods, and elsewhere repairing damaged lines and downed wires.
Collaboration doesn’t end there. Utility executives are working with our federal partners to ensure their crews are considered essential workers and can access the needed equipment to do their jobs safely during this pandemic. Many of our members share communications networks with first responders and others to enable broader, more efficient and reliable communications on really bad days. And the broadband and internet companies keeping us all connected—including several UTC member utilities—are offering faster speeds at no additional costs to deal with the higher demand.
When this pandemic ends, I hope we continue this spirit of collaboration. I know our members will as collaboration is ingrained in their DNA. But there is so much we can learn from each other now as we are forced to improvise in our personal and professional lives.
Even as things return to normal, this pandemic will leave its mark. Remote working will likely become much more accepted as the norm—and we at UTC were way ahead of the curve on that one! We will have to find new and innovative ways to hold meetings. While we know we’ll be able to hold in-person meetings again, we also know we can reach more people with webinars and other virtual offerings that don’t require airfare and hotel rooms.
Disaster planning will likely change too. The utility industry is the gold standard for disaster planning and thanks to years of pre-planning and scenario training, our industry was ready for this pandemic from the start. Indeed, few if any industries prepare for such events as often as the utility sector. We are and remain ready.
At UTC, we take collaboration to heart each and every day. We are a small but mighty team. Our membership and meetings department is working overtime on our upcoming slate of meetings, keeping all options on the table and ensuring that we can provide opportunities for our members to collaborate together. Our content and advocacy team is laser-focused on congressional and federal action that impacts your work—they are ensuring that your needs are being heard and addressed. And as for finance and operations, you can rest assured that we are looking for every opportunity to leave the association on sound footing after this pandemic is over.
Every pillar of UTC is critical to our success and continued operation. Make no mistake—these are trying times. I consider myself fortunate to wake up, hug my family, turn on my computer and get to work. I have my health and, thankfully, so do my kids and husband. And I am honored and blessed to work with humble and dedicated colleagues who care deeply about UTC, our members, and our mission.
Collaboration. We do it every day, and it will be essential to getting us through this situation