Bringing the Promise of Power Back to Puerto Rico

By Kathy Hill

A new National Grid apprentice in Puerto Rico? Bill Shaffer (l) and Jeremiah Belknap helped young Alex fix his bike, then it was back to work restoring power in Puerto Nuevo, near San Juan.

They came through for our customers five years ago when Superstorm Sandy redefined our understanding of storm damage. They came through for our customers after last year’s punishing windstorms in western New York and Rhode Island. They came through in and around Florida in one of the largest power restoration efforts in U.S. history. And countless times before.

Now, National Grid crews are proving again how far they will go – and how long they’ll stay – when the need is there. With much of Puerto Rico still without power months after the double devastations of Hurricanes Irene and Maria, the need is beyond evident. And National Grid crews and contractors – a source of pride for those of us who know – are on the ground in Puerto Rico, contributing to the massive effort to rebuild the electrical infrastructure and restore service to the island’s residents.

Deploying a rotating series of teams, National Grid is providing mutual assistance support in Puerto Rico as part of a comprehensive response being organized by EEI, the American Public Power Association and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. The effort among the investor-owned utilities in New York is being coordinated by the New York Power Authority, at the request of Gov. Cuomo.

Calling the coordinated effort “unprecedented,” Ken Daly, National Grid President & COO – New York, has seen the devastation and the restoration work firsthand. On Dec. 23, Ken traveled to Puerto Rico with John Bruckner, National Grid’s US Chief Operating Officer, to visit our employees and contractors working far from home and families over the holidays. [See sidebar below.]

The first wave of National Grid mutual assistance in Puerto Rico – the team is flanked by Ken Daly (far left) and John Bruckner (far right)

 

The company initially deployed supervisory employees as part of an overall contingent of 28 workers from New York utilities to provide technical reconciliation and project management support for restoration efforts already underway. Company contractor personnel then arrived in Puerto Rico in early November, and the larger contingent of National Grid employees arrived Nov. 28.

The company also deployed trucks and other equipment needed for use by the National Grid team on the island. The equipment was shipped to Puerto Rico via barge.

Just as the first wave arrived back in New York on Jan. 8, and returned to their home locations the following day, a second deployment – including overhead line workers, supervision, management and other support, along with overhead contractors – traveled to Puerto Rico to continue the massive effort. This wave of 55 workers (41 National Grid, 14 contractor) is being deployed for four weeks, with typical work schedules of 16–hour days, seven days per week. In consultation with the New York Power Authority, it was agreed that future deployments would be for four weeks, rather than the six weeks worked by the first large wave.

 

The second wave of National Grid mutual assistance in Puerto Rico

 

The second contingent, deployed Jan. 8, included:

  • Fifteen two-person field crews, five from each of the company’s upstate operating divisions
  • First-line supervision and overhead line managers
  • Safety personnel, fleet mechanics, and distribution line personnel from company contractors
  • Fourteen overhead line workers from one of our on-property contractors.

The company has committed to sending at least one additional wave of restoration workers, and perhaps more, depending on the ongoing need.

For highlights of the mutual assistance for Puerto Rico initiative or to show your support, use the Twitter hashtag #SendingLight2PR.

 

Celebrating Thanksgiving far from home in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, are (from left) Francis “Mickey” Pomakoy, Jr., UG Manager, Albany; Randy Jones, OH Lead Supervisor, Herkimer; George Phillips, Design Supervisor, Buffalo; and Joseph “Rick“ Eichhorn, Jr., OH Supervisor, Batavia. The four served as technical advisors in the initial deployment.

 

National Grid President & COO – New York Ken Daly shares some thoughts on his recent visit to the first of our deployed mutual assistance teams in Puerto Rico. Ken traveled with National Grid’s US Chief Operating Officer John Bruckner.

“I am so proud of our leadership in Puerto Rico, the workforce and the tremendous job they’re doing. I knew the conditions going in, but seeing is truly believing. Our team was working seven days a week, 16 hours a day without a day of rest, and I really thought when I got there they’d be feeling it. But they could not have been more vibrant, more positive, more energized.

“The work they’re getting done is critical. The conditions our workers are facing are not like working on the national grid – it’s a much different electrical system, it has not been managed and invested in like our own system. With the challenges and the potential safety issues, each job is hard to describe. And then the work conditions are the opposite of what we’re seeing here – 85 degrees, bright and sunny, with workers all wearing heavy equipment, fully rubberized given the safety concerns.

“John and I had also a chance to get out and meet with Puerto Rican customers, who could not have been more supportive and appreciative of the work our teams are doing. And we’ll keep doing it until we get the lights back on in Puerto Rico.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


5 Comments

Amanda Rodriguez

Words cannot express how thankful we are for your endless efforts in helping my country and family in this desperate time of need..
My heart is filled knowing I work in a company who knows what it means to be “Here with you. Here for you.”

Reply
Jackie Vando

THANK YOU for all you are doing to get their lights back on and bring a sense of normalcy back to their lives. Giving up the holidays and special occasions is not an easy thing to do and takes a special group of people to do just that. Words cannot express the appreciation I feel in my heart for our company and especially for our amazing people! God bless you all.

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John Bruckner

I am so fortunate to work with so many awesome men and women at National Grid. To those who volunteer to leave their loved ones to help others , THANK YOU. To those who stay behind and keep things running smoothly in their absence, THANK YOU!

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Thomas Muccio

I think it’s amazing that these employees were willing to give up so much time away from home to help in the restoration effort in Puerto Rico. National Grid’s long term commitment to this restoration effort show’s a real concern on the Company’s behalf.

Reply
Josh

Thank You for all that you have done! I love how Bill and Jeremiah took some time to even fix that boy’s bike, talk about going above and beyond! You guys make me so proud to work for National Grid!!!

Reply

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