Utilities enact preparation plans

Loudon Utilities Board electric crews, although cut in half, continue to maintain daily operations.

Lenoir City Utilities Board and Loudon Utilities Board have devised plans designed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and keep employees and customers healthy.

“Basically, we’ve staggered everyone’s shifts,” Jaison Brown, director of support services for LUB, said. “We’ve split everyone up. Essentially, we’ll have each facility staffed with half the personnel on each day so we can ensure that social distancing is occurring as directed by the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), along those guidelines.”

LUB has taken a Crew A and Crew B approach, using one crew at a time.

“Crew B is on call,” Brown said. “They are subject to be called in in the event of an incident that requires additional personnel. The instruction guideline from general manager (Ty) Ross is that you may be at home but you’re practicing all the health and safety guidelines that have come down, and you’re subject to being called in. Just because you’re home does not mean that you’re off, so to speak.”

LCUB has adopted a similar approach, but general manager Shannon Littleton said the utility has various levels of action to take.

“We were in a weekly rotation, and we have dialed that back just a little bit,” Littleton said. “We have separated the crews, just by crew to crew in their own crew quarters and their own crew vehicles. We kind of walked back just a little bit, but we are prepared to go back into what I call ‘storm mode’ where we are all working a 16 hours a day rotation where employees work eight to 16 hours and then they go home and the next crew will work the next 16. We call that ‘storm preparation.’ It’s our next phase of this pandemic plan that we’ve prepared.”

LUB has suspended all large projects.

“Right now we have suspended all planned work that requires an employee to come into contact with a customer or a customer’s home,” Brown said. “An example would be our gas service, the gas department having to go in to (homes) … so we have suspended those services. Other than that, day-to-day operations are being maintained. We’re just trying to minimize our contact with the public.”

For both companies, employees who can work from home have been instructed to do so. With lobbies closed and drive-throughs operational, offices have been staffed at the minimum.

“The (employees) that are available with work to do at home, we’ve rotated them on a schedule, and we’re monitoring their work to make sure they have been,” Littleton said. “We’ve distanced our crews. We’re allowing limited numbers to the vehicles, and we’ve put them on a rotation as well. So we’ve done just about everything we can do to ensure that we’re separated from one another.”

Littleton said LCUB is also using “fogging equipment” to disinfect buildings and vehicles on a routine basis.

“We’d like to ask all of our customers to follow up on Facebook,” Brown said. “A lot of pertinent information as things change, our Facebook page will be updated as well as our website.”

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