Two-to-a-Trailer with No End in Sight

This week, NBC reported that New York’s Independent System Operator enacted its Continuity Plan to isolate 37 employees from society to ensure their health. Two shifts of these NYISO operations and reliability staff will be holed-up two-to-a-trailer for the foreseeable future. The trailers are equipped with beds, food and provisions. The purpose is to retain employees’ health, and therefore their ability to maintain the health of New York’s utility grid on which almost 20 million New Yorkers rely. Remember, it’s people who maintain, monitor and control this critical utility infrastructure. Without protecting their health, the power lines, substations, and upkeep of generation equipment become a victim of COVID-19. Edison Electric Institute has predicted that up to 40% of the utility workforce could be unable to work, whether out sick, staying home, or caring for family. 60Hertz’s research reveals that utilities and Independent System Operators across the country are considering enacting similar measures.

We hail these maintenance heros! 60Hertz is offering free maintenance management software licenses to utility personnel in quarantine for the next 4 months.

60Hertz, a Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS), has gained insights through extensive user research about how to support Isolated utility maintenance personnel. Microgrid employees are regularly separated from their families and colleagues for long stints. Experienced electricians or mechanics who service diesel generators, repair power lines across the Arctic, work in Colombian villages, or traverse the hilly, tropical landscape of Puerto Rico must cope with a strange mix of boredom and watchfulness. Find out more about what is CMMS in our guide.

During 60Hertz’s design research in 2018, we asked a third-generation diesel mechanic in Alaska to name the hardest part of his job. His voice cracked as he explained the difficulty of being away from his family 80% of the time. Similarly, members of the NYISO utility staff have no end in sight from the sequestration that began March 24th.

While communication platforms like Zoom suit administrative employees now working from home, do utilities provide sufficiently robust digital tools to their maintenance personnel? While personal cell phones were sufficient for regular field maintenance pre-COVID19, there is increasing evidence that cybercriminals are taking advantage of the pandemic. On March 15th, the US Health and Human Services Department was hammered for several hours with millions of hits in an attempt to overload their servers. Cyber analysts warn that these attacks are increasing and will target critical response sectors.

60Hertz understands and has implemented robust security on our electric utility management software. Though microgrid maintenance management is our primary market, our maintenance features support now-isolated rural and urban utility maintenance workers who need digital checklists, work orders, shift-to-shift debriefing function, messaging and even a social outlet to combat isolation.

And to our friends at NY-ISO, maybe these tips from Kyler Killmer, a Circuit Rider who works in more than 80 remote villages across Alaska could help: “Throughout my travels I’ve learned there is a whole lot of sitting around… waiting on planes. I like to bring books, a portable tablet or handheld video consoles…Sometimes I even use my phone as a hotspot to play online video games with my friends and family.” With a heart to unite very remote maintenance personnel we currently serve with those who now face new levels of isolation, 60Hertz has your back.

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Piper Foster Wilder

Piper Foster Wilder is a Humboldt Fellow and is former Vice President of Amatis Controls. She is committed to creating meaningful work for all people and enabling a transition to renewable energy while economizing the diesel that some must use. She holds multiple awards for her entrepreneurship and social impact initiatives.