Employees recognized for support during the BC wildfires

April 10, 2018


Spring has sprung and summer is just around the corner, but with warmer dryer weather comes the danger of wildfires.

In mid-September 2017, 158 wildfires burned through our province. The 2017 wildfire season was notable for a number of reasons: first, for the largest total area burnt in a fire season in recorded history; second, for the largest number of total evacuees in a fire season; and third, for the largest single fire ever in British Columbia.

The wildfires impacted many of the communities in which we live and work, specifically communities in and around the Cariboo region and our service territories.

To offer our support for wildfire relief, FortisBC assisted the British Columbia Economic Development Association (BCEDA) in launching a business recovery hotline to help businesses access the resources they need to resume normal business activities.

From left to right - Emily Colombo, Manager, Cariboo Region Community Wildfire Recovery Branch; Dale Wheeldon, president and CEO, BCEDA; Dawn Mehrer, vice-president of customer service, FortisBC; Amy Reid, Economic Development Officer, City of Quesnel

When FortisBC received the request for assistance from the BCEDA, we worked together to see how best we could help and received an overwhelmingly positive response from our contact centre employees who wanted to be a part of the recovery hotline.

Initially, the hotline was planned for a two-week period beginning in July but due to the increasing number of calls and importance of the line, we were able to extend it until mid-September. In total, our customer contact centre representatives answered 493 calls.

“The professionalism and compassion demonstrated by the FortisBC employees helped us gather critical information needed for us to encourage additional support from the Province of BC, private sector, the Canadian Red Cross and more,” said Dale Wheeldon, president and CEO of the BCEDA. “The information collected helped our teams of volunteers to reach out to business owners and guide them to further supports that helped many of them overcome the challenges they were facing such as finding hay for cattle, getting fences repaired, securing financial assistance or simply just having someone to talk to during the difficult times they were experiencing.”

In February of this year, the BCEDA presented the FortisBC customer contact centres in Prince George and Burnaby with two plaques in appreciation for their support. Those plaques now hang at each of the contact centres as a reminder of our efforts.


Getting back to business

Last August, one of the calls received at our contact centre was from a retail business owner who was dealing with an excess of inventory after Billy Barker Days in Quesnel was cancelled. Her greatest worry was that she was uncertain about the future of her business. After calling the hotline, she expressed that the call centre staff were “warm, caring and helpful.”

The hotline supported her by providing the information to register for and receive the provincial government’s grant through the Canadian Red Cross. The grant ended up paying the wages of her part-time employee for one month.

Although seemingly small, this was a great relief for this local business owner and a step towards getting her business back in order.

“Some people had lost everything,” said Michelle Carmen, director, customer service at FortisBC. “They were looking for support and reassurance, and that’s what we were able to provide. We walked them through a series of questions so the BCEDA would know what resources were needed in each area.”

”The support from FortisBC and the people who work here wasn’t limited to the hotline,” Carmen adds. “Employees worked night and day to stay informed about the situation and keep our customers in the affected areas safe, and were able to bring power and gas back online as soon as possible.”

FortisBC also received BC Utilities Commission approval to provide customers who were evacuated from their homes with billing relief.

Caring for our communities, especially during difficult times, is of the utmost importance for us at FortisBC. And while we hope not to see the same events repeated again this year, we are certain that our employees will be there on the front lines to support the relief efforts.

From left to right - Dawn Mehrer, vice-president of customer service, FortisBC; Dale Wheeldon, president and CEO, BCEDA; Jenn Walker from the Provincial Disaster Recovery Branch with the Province of BC; Diana Sorace, Corporate Communications Advisor, FortisBC; BCEDA Coquitlam board member, David Munro; Matt Mason, Community and Aboriginal Relations Manager, FortisBC

More about