As of this writing, we are halfway through September, National Preparedness Month. The experts predicted an active hurricane season, and 2020 is living up to those expectations. Right now, Hurricane Sally is hitting the Alabama/Florida border with torrential rain and strong winds. Of course, this is just weeks after Hurricane Laura barreled through Louisiana, devastating Lake Charles and surrounding areas.
On the West Coast, we are dealing with catastrophic wildfires that are destroying homes and lives. Communities have been destroyed and people have been uprooted, and this situation seems to get worse every year.
And as is usually the case, utilities are among the first to respond to these disasters and begin restoring service as quickly and safely as possible. So when it comes to National Preparedness Month, utilities are a model for the rest of the country to follow. A speaker during our virtual annual meeting last month said it better than me: Utilities are the first in, and last out in responding to natural disasters.
I’ve been thinking about this work, about what it takes to be prepared for natural and even man-made disasters, and how it applies to what we do at UTC to support our members. Utilities routinely train, test, and hold exercises in preparation for the worst scenarios imaginable. That’s one of many reasons why I’m so honored to represent this industry—everything you do powers every aspect of our lives. And you are constantly striving to improve and build a more resilient, reliable grid.
At UTC, we take this to heart. Like any organization, we’ve been deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has changed our lives and our work, but I hope we’ve been able to provide the same customer service UTC members require. If at anytime you have questions or have suggestions for what we can do better, please reach out and let me know. We are here to serve you, because you serve all of us in so many ways.
Over the next several weeks, the UTC regions are holding their fall slate of meetings. All of these meetings are being held virtually due to the current situation. Again, we’ve had to adjust our plans in order to provide you the educational content and learning opportunities you need, and we’ve made it free for all UTC core utility members to participate in these events.
I had the honor of addressing our Region 9 officers for their meeting on Sept. 15. Keep in mind the utilities in this region are also dealing with the wildfires that are raging throughout the West. I did my best to encourage them and let them know that UTC is here for them. We are prepared to offer any services they may need. We are #UTCReady for our members.
As I wrap up, I wanted to touch on an issue that is becoming near and dear to me. While I’m proud at how the UTC team has responded to the pandemic and quickly pivoting to our virtual offerings, I’m also struck at how fortunate and blessed we are to be able to do so. We’ve been able to hold onto our jobs while so many have lost theirs. And we’ve been able to hold our meetings virtually, while so many people across this country—in cities and rural areas—do not have adequate internet access.
And again, so many of our UTC core utility members are stepping in to help fill this digital divide. Every electric utility in some way, shape, or form empowers broadband access. Through our Utilities Broadband Committee, UTC provides a venue between and among utilities and vendors to discuss ways in which we can leverage utility communications networks for broadband connectivity.
It is important as we continue to face this pandemic and deal with our inequities as a country to remember that as an industry, we are responsible for so much good. We are seeing it when utilities support each other after damaging storms and wildfires, and we are seeing it when rural cooperatives partner with investor-owned utilities to bring broadband to their communities.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your CEO. As long as I can help it, we will always be #UTCReady to serve you.