National Grid Pushes Through COVID-19 Challenges During NE Wind Event

By Jennifer Bray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relentless rain, toppled trees and wild winds set the stage for the storm that tore through New England the day after Easter.

That storm brought wind gusts of 50 miles per hour across Massachusetts and Rhode Island with some wind speeds reaching as high as 80 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.

All said and done, roughly 140,000 customers in the Bay State had to be restored as a result of the storm. National Grid crews were quickly deployed to tackle the outages, with more than 140 personnel from visiting crews setting up camp  at the DoubleTree Hotel and the Best Western Motel in Rockland, which reopened just for the National Grid’s contracting crews.

“Our motel has been closed for COVID-19 since March 27th,” said Devesh Karani, the Operations Manager for the Best Western in Rockland, MA. “But we have worked with National Grid since 2012 when Hurricane Sandy hit and wanted to be there for National Grid now.”

The pandemic created special challenges for the crews overnighting away from home. Previously simple tasks like grabbing a room key were no longer simple. Key pick-ups had to be done in very small groups to maintain social distancing. Meals were no longer served buffet style, but were individually bagged and packaged breakfast, lunch and dinners, which crews had to eat back in their rooms alone or in their trucks.

The sacrifices that the National Grid team and supporting crews made the day after Easter, fighting both a storm and a pandemic did not go unnoticed.

“It’s the right thing to do to give a huge shout-out for the unbelievable and tireless work your team and every technician does out there to bring warmth and comfort in peoples’ homes,” said Karani in a thank you letter he wrote to National Grid.

“It is easy for us to whine about no power,” Karani said. “But when the National Grid crews are out there working on the poles from 6 a.m. to late at night and you see the outage numbers dropping, you start to understand that the discipline they maintain is remarkable and you don’t see that a lot.”

Jennifer Morris, who works in GBU as an analyst for Business Planning & Performance, is one of the people that Karani mentioned for going above and beyond in his letter. “The pandemic certainly added unique challenges to our typical storm protocol,” she said.

For Morris, caring for fellow employees during this turbulent time was the top priority. “Ensuring that the men and women responsible for getting power back on are taken care of in a timely manner is incredibly important. They appreciate that after working a very long day, they have a hotel room and a meal waiting for them upon arrival.”

Because of the restrictions around COVID-19, food planning and sharing was especially tough. But National Grid actually had an abundance of food.

With cooperation from the Staging Site Support team, employees managed to deliver nearly 100 unused breakfast and box lunches to local families with children in Dedham, as well as 50 boxed lunches to a shelter in Plymouth. Fifty fruit cups, sandwiches and water were also shared with nurses at the South Shore Hospital supporting COVID-19 patients.

Meals were also shared with National Guard members who were staying at the DoubleTree Hotel. That spirit of generosity moved the general manager of the DoubleTree to write his own thank you letter, applauding National Grid.

“We were very proud to have so many emergency responders in house,” said Brad Craig, the General Manager of the DoubleTree in Rockland. “Thank you for sharing some of the overflow of food with ourselves and the National Guard.”

Joy Banks, a senior data analyst for National Grid, spent many hours strategizing how best to deploy and mobilize the restoration teams.

“I am very proud of my team for stepping up to the challenge,” Banks said. “We were prepared and ready to respond to our customer’s needs. The preparations for this event really paid off. The only thing we missed were the smiles hidden behind the masks of the hundreds of crews we supported.”