I started work at Duke Energy right after hurricane season and quickly learned what the company does in a crisis – including mobilizing all employees to restore power after a major storm.
Every employee is assigned a storm role, typically outside of their traditional job description, to ensure the company is ready to meet our customers’ needs quickly before, during and after a storm.
I was assigned to be a field coordinator, which means I travel to hard-hit areas after storms to help figure out logistics for the company’s media team in the field, keeping reporters and customers updated about our power restoration efforts. I immediately went home and bragged to my family and friends about being a storm chaser.
And then I received my first assignment in September 2019 – to go into the field to support Hurricane Dorian preparation and restoration efforts.
That is when the “be safes” started.
Storm prep after storm prep ended with “be safe.” Call after call ended with “be safe.” Every meeting I was a part of ended with “be safe.”
It wasn’t a robotic statement my colleagues were saying to me to check a box. They sincerely wanted me to be safe while I was in the field.
Over the course of the next five days I was in seven cities along the North Carolina coast, stopping at utility operations centers, helping with interviews and visiting power plants. The “be safes” flowed constantly from Duke Energy employees.
A project manager at the retired Sutton Steam Station told every person who finished their prep work to be safe.
The incident commander at the Morehead City Operations Center told his lineworkers to head home early the day before the storm to make sure their own homes were ready and to be safe.
We were all there to fulfill our storm roles and serve our customers, but the most important thing that came through was that we were to be safe.
By the end, I couldn’t help but end every conversation I had with any friend, foe or stranger with “be safe.”
I continue to see a focus on safety everywhere – we start every meeting with a safety moment, we make sure that our colleagues hold handrails and there are no tripping hazards around us. During the pandemic, many of us are working at home to avoid contact with others. When we do go into the field, we are reminded to wear masks and stay socially distant – just like our line crews. The crews that restore power are using new safety measures to protect our customers and one another. We encourage our customers to stay safe as well by keeping outside of marked work zones and not approaching crews working to restore power and maintain the grid.
The week I was a field coordinator, I felt the truth of the statement that at Duke Energy, safety is our priority. In fact, I heard it – wholeheartedly – from every person I spoke to.