The world has become a very different place over the past few months with the outbreak of a new coronavirus—COVID-19. The virus has forced travel bans and literal lockdowns in several countries. The NCAA and major sports leagues, including the NBA, NHL, and MLB, have postponed or canceled games. Broadway shows and theme parks, such as Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld, have all shut down for at least a few weeks. Nearly every planned gathering of more than a few dozen people has been put on hold.
And so it is with the 22nd annual ELECTRIC POWER Conference and Exhibition. The event was scheduled to be held at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Colorado, April 14–17, 2020, but it has been postponed until a future date. The most up-to-date information about the event can be found at: electricpowerexpo.com.
Keeping the Lights On
While people around the globe struggle to cope with the COVID-19 outbreak, power generators are doing what they always do—providing electricity around the clock to customers everywhere. The virus surely weighs on everyone’s mind, but people still expect the lights to go on when they flip the switch, whether there’s a pandemic in progress or not.
Electricity is needed to power hospitals treating sick patients, laboratories working to create a vaccine, news agencies reporting on the effects being felt around the world, factories manufacturing masks and anti-bacterial products to help stop the spread of the virus, grocery stores ensuring people have food and cleaning supplies to cope with two-week quarantine periods, and everyone else trying to carry on business as usual. Just as they do during other emergencies, power professionals are working around the clock to provide reliable electricity to help make it all happen.
A Disruption Like We’ve Never Experienced
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is an operating division in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has said: “For most people, the immediate risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to be low.” However, older adults and people of any age with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, lung disease, or heart disease, are at greater risk of severe illness.
New POWER Website Unveiled
POWER is pleased to announce that its website has been updated with a fresh new look. The same great content you’ve come to expect is still being added on a regular basis, but now the site has an infinite scroll feature that eliminates having to click through to different pages when reading lengthy articles.
The home page in the desktop version includes a two-column format with featured images prominently displayed, but the site is also optimized for mobile devices and tablets, making it a great resource, even when you’re on the go. POWER still has a bevy of categories to choose from so you can easily find the topics of most interest to you. Users can also subscribe to the magazine or take a test drive of the digital edition by following the “Sign up” link in the upper right corner of the site.
There’s much more to engage with including webinars, podcasts, videos, white papers, industry job postings, archives, and more. Don’t forget to follow POWER on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, so you don’t miss the latest posts. We hope you enjoy the experience!
There are simple things people can do to reduce the chance of catching and spreading the virus. The CDC says to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands; stay home when you are sick; and cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. The signs and symptoms of infection are fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
Some epidemiologists have predicted that two-thirds of all people in the U.S. might become infected. It is likely that many power industry workers will become ill, and that could strain plant operations. Studies suggest COVID-19 is more infectious than typical flu viruses, so the CDC’s advice to stay home when sick is important to follow. That, of course, means healthy workers must fill the gaps and work longer or more frequent shifts.
The Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the association that represents all U.S. investor-owned electric companies, published a paper in late February titled “Electric Companies & Pandemic Planning: What You Should Know.” It says, “Planning for a health emergency, such as a pandemic, is unique from other business continuity planning because it requires businesses to prepare to operate with a significantly smaller workforce, a threatened supply chain, and limited support services for an extended period of time.”
Most (if not all) power companies do have incident response plans to follow during emergencies. After a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or earthquake, mutual assistance programs can help affected utilities recover. However, a pandemic, by definition, is a global outbreak. As the EEI put it, “Because of the widespread nature of a pandemic, companies may not be able to depend on the traditional mutual assistance programs that help companies restore service after natural disasters and weather events.”
How the situation will ultimately play out is a big unknown, but one thing is sure, the dedicated workers in the power industry will do their best to respond to the crisis. There’s no more-qualified group of professionals in the world than the folks keeping the lights on today. Thanks for your efforts and stay healthy! ■
—Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor.