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Why we're working in your neighbourhood amid COVID-19
April 20, 2020
The world as we know it has changed. The COVID-19 pandemic has launched us into a worldwide crisis where priorities and daily lives have been altered dramatically. However, the critical need for continuous, around the clock energy has not changed – whether it be natural gas that heats our water and keeps industries running or electricity that lights our way and powers our ability to stay connected.
This energy is needed all day, every day, but never more so than now. And this is why we’re deemed to be a critical infrastructure service provider by the provincial government, Emergency Management BC and the Provincial Health Officer.
We’re here with you, every step
After making adjustments to support our employees who can work from home, more than 1,500 are now doing so, alone or alongside partners, parents and children. We also have another contingent of hundreds of employees, men and women, who are among many others in BC working selflessly in our communities.
“It’s been amazing to see our workforce, across the province, step up during such a challenging, demanding and anxious time. We will continue working so our customers do not have to worry about their energy. We’ll keep it flowing, safely and reliably.” – Ferenc Pataki, a FortisBC director, operations
It’s our field crews and employees working in our customer service, control and dispatch centres that are making sure the energy continues to flow in BC. They’re making sure you have the natural gas or electricity you need – as well as hospitals, first responder agencies, care homes, grocery stores, pharmacies and food delivery.
But what does that look like?
Emergencies do happen
Unfortunately, emergencies do happen, from damaged power and natural gas lines, to a rotten egg smell in someone’s home that needs investigation. Our employees respond to such emergencies 24 hours a day in all weather, not only to protect your safety, but also to repair our infrastructure so you’ll continue to have hot water, heat and lights.
Plus they’ll take extra precautions when needed. If, for example, you smell rotten eggs in your home, our dispatch will send a customer service technician to investigate once you call us. Before entering your home, they will put on personal protection equipment (overalls, respiratory, eye and hand protection) to keep everyone safe.
With so many people at home, we’ve also noticed more work being done in yards and gardens. If you plan to dig or excavate in your yard (planting a shrub, installing a fence), please consider if it’s necessary during the COVID-19 crisis. If you hit a natural gas line on your property, our crews will have to come out to repair it and go inside any affected homes to relight appliances. If you decide you still want to work in your yard, click or call BC 1 Call before you dig. It’s a free service that provides the location of underground gas lines and other buried utilities in your area and on your property.
If you see us out and about
If you see one of our field crews working in your neighbourhood, they’re there for a very good reason. They’re making sure you have the energy you need, and that essential workers have the energy they need in this time of crisis.
Our crews may be performing maintenance or upgrades to our natural gas or electrical infrastructure. And we’ve been careful to postpone or reschedule work that would have an impact on at-risk customers like care homes. We’re also taking care of the well-being of our employees.
“Before our crews go out, we talk and take the time to make sure that each and every one of our employees is both physically and mentally ready to continue to do the work that needs to get done safely.” – Marko Aaltomma, a FortisBC director, generation and compression
Our crews follow all hygiene protocols, have additional personal protection equipment and will keep appropriate physical distancing measures with each other when possible, and the public, always.
In support of physical distancing, when you see us in your neighbourhood, give us a wave or a nod, but please keep your distance for your safety and ours. If you have questions, give us a call instead.
Planned power outages
We truly understand that any electrical outage is extra disruptive right now, especially with so many people working and studying from home. Yet the planned upgrades and maintenance on our system, which result in short temporary outages, is necessary so we can continue to deliver the energy BC relies on. Failure to do this type of work could lead to larger or more prolonged outages down the road.
When we plan a power outage, we carefully schedule a time and repair method that will minimize how long power may be out for as few customers as possible. These outages typically take one to four hours. As always, our crews are grateful for your patience.
Working in isolation
Like some frontline workers, our crews have had to adjust their work practices, and in some cases, their whole lives, to make sure they can carry on their work safely during COVID-19.
As work continues to maintain the safe delivery of energy, and respond to emergencies 24 hours a day, a hotel has become home for a few of our employees. This is their new reality. They live here, away from their families and loved ones. They work in shifts. They’ve volunteered to be sequestered for over a month. Like many utilities across North America, we’re isolating these essential workers to help protect their health and safety as their role in maintaining our system is very important.
“It’s the willingness and sacrifice of these employees, and all the essential workers across the province, that’s both inspiring and humbling.” – Marko Aaltomma
Regardless of what challenge or uncertainty is put in front of us, we are prepared and have plans in place to ensure BC receives the energy it needs. Remember, we’re always here for you. And not just our people working out in the community. But the entire FortisBC family.
Be safe. Stay healthy.
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