Tulsa World: Utility Workers—A New, Unsung Hero Emerges During Times of Crisis
By Dan Sullivan
During the difficult time we are currently facing, our societal “norms” are challenged. In a recent interview, a pundit expressed his belief the changes we are making today may become the “new norm” of the future. Working from home and changing our social patterns will likely become the new way we interact once this crisis has diminished.
Another change likely to emerge is who society typically labels a “hero.”
My definition of a hero is an ordinary person willing to do something extraordinary to have a positive impact on others. We have always thought of our first responders and military personnel as heroes because they charge toward the threat rather than retreat.
In the crisis today, the hero label certainly extends to the thousands of health care workers waging this war in our hospitals. Each one knowingly is subjected to harm and, yet, returns day after day to face the challenge.
Today, as we sit in our homes in some form of social isolation, we must consider another unsung hero during this crisis — utility workers.
Each time we turn on a water tap or flip a light switch, we automatically expect it to work. Now, possibly more than ever in our nation’s history, a simple resource we take for granted every day is a vital lifeline, whether it’s running water to wash hands or ensuring citizens remain connected to work and critical news or, most importantly, ensuring the power supply for hospitals and clinics is not disrupted.
As we move into our season of severe weather, planning and preparing for all scenarios means we also must be ready with a healthy team of workers to respond. The majority of typical workforces are able to remain in the safety of their homes, but a portion of our employees must report to work, in person, to maintain our utility services. At the time of this writing, plans are being finalized to retain many critical positions sequestered at his or her work stations for days at a time.
A great deal of personal sacrifice from electricians and line workers is required. These heroes will spend days and weeks away from their own families to protect our critical infrastructure and ensure essential, life-saving resources are available.
These are uncharted waters and require extraordinary steps to keep the lights on. The capable men and women being called upon to take extraordinary steps are prepared and ready to do so. Each and every worker recognizes the value of the service they provide to citizens in our communities.
Today, when you flip the electric switch or turn on the water tap, please keep these families in your thoughts and prayers as they encounter the stress of being away from loved ones during these difficult times. In the future, when you see a utility worker, take the time to say thank you and share your appreciation of these unsung heroes.
Dan Sullivan is president and CEO of the Grand River Dam Authority.