wilderness with snowy mountains in background

Here For You – No Matter What

Posted: May 5, 2020
Mark Hayden, GM

Greetings MEC Members. I hope that this time finds you and your families safe and healthy. As I write this article in mid-April, we are squarely in the midst of our second shelter-at-home directive here in Montana as a result of COVID 19. In response, Missoula Electric Cooperative (MEC) has adapted and modified our day-to-day operations with the goal of keeping our people safe while at the same time providing the exceptional service you expect and deserve. It goes without saying that electricity is an essential service, and in this time of national and local emergency we understand that seamless delivery of electric service is more critical now than ever.

So how does an organization prepare for such a disruptive event? One important tool is an effective Business Continuity and Succession plan. While having a plan is a good first step, MEC goes further by regularly re-evaluating its plan to account for any technological or operational changes that have been made in the time since the last evaluation. In addition, each year, our management team runs tabletop exercises using different disaster scenarios in order to evaluate and modify our predicted response to an emergency. At MEC, our plan is typically set in motion to address widespread, severe weather events, but pandemic response is also an important consideration. Over the past few weeks, the team at MEC has been working our plan and making necessary modifications depending upon each situation. Adequate preparation and thoughtful execution have allowed us the flexibility to adapt our operations, hopefully with little or no impact to the members that we serve.

Over the past decade, MEC has sought out and implemented many new technologies to increase employee efficiency while improving the overall member experience. While concern for employee and member health did require closure of our office to the public, we have leveraged the technological advances we have made to ensure that all of your calls are answered, your transactions are processed, and that all critical aspects of the business continue uninterrupted. For some office employees, that means working from home, and for others, staggered work schedules ensure that adequate social distancing is possible. Make no mistake, all of this would not have been possible just a decade ago.

As you can imagine, our work in the field to maintain a safe and reliable electric grid cannot pause, nor can we risk idling the entire workforce if an outbreak were to occur at MEC. For that reason, crews have been separated into small, isolated groups, with alternating work schedules, and fleet vehicles that have been preassigned to minimize response time in the event of emergency. Through it all, we continue to install new services, maintain or replace damaged or aging equipment, and provide the critical emergency response that is essential to the communities we serve.

MEC and its members are very fortunate to have devoted crews who are flexible and adaptive in response to disruptive circumstances. April 13, was National Lineman Appreciation Day. While our current situation prevented us from gathering to celebrate appropriately, I thank everyone on the crew for their dedicated service, and look forward to the time when we can safely gather and celebrate the efforts of our dedicated crews.

One significant change MEC made was the unprecedented decision to postpone our Annual Meeting, originally scheduled for March 21. While at the time, this decision was a difficult one to make, looking back, it was entirely appropriate. While it is still too early to make any definite plans for a future date or meeting method, all members will be notified once those plans are in place.

Like many of you, I wonder when things will return to “normal”, and what that might look like going forward. Whatever form our new normal takes, I want you to rest assured that your electric cooperative is here 24/7 to serve your needs. The skilled and dedicated employees of MEC will make sure of that, and I couldn’t be more proud of the work they do every day.

Now, as always, if you have questions, concerns, or ideas for improvement don’t hesitate to give me a call at 406-541-6340.