Above, Kenzie Fitzgerald, Member Services, enters a drive-thru payment into the computer. All employees handling payments and/or mail are required to use protective gloves.
Owen Electric Cooperative maintains 4,600 miles of power lines that brings electric to more than 62,000 members’ homes, businesses, and industries in northern Kentucky. Given the critical importance of electricity to the healthcare industry and public welfare, Owen Electric has monitored national and local developments on the evolving impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) since its onset.
“Because our employees are the backbone and driving force behind the service we provide, it was important to be proactive and not reactive regarding this disease,” Mike Cobb, president and CEO said. “We’ve based our safety precautions on information from the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and local public health agencies. It’s paramount to ensure our employees stay healthy so that we can continue to provide reliable electric service.”
In late February, following a cooperative-wide infectious disease prevention and control training, Owen Electric offices and warehouses were stocked with additional sanitation supplies, including hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes for electronics and work stations. Since then, additional measures have been taken to protect against the onset and spread of illness, including designating facilities a “handshake-free zone” with signage to limit personal contact, and cancelling non-essential business travel and face to face meetings.
In early March, a four-level response plan was communicated to members regarding office and construction operations. Operating at a Level 2, Owen Electric encouraged members to limit visits to offices and to conduct business electronically, if possible. All non-essential business travel was cancelled.
More recently, in an effort to stay ahead of COVID-19, Owen Electric escalated its response to Level 3; this includes closing lobbies and conducting business via drive-thru windows, over the phone, and electronically. All employees handling mail and money must wear gloves, and work stations have been relocated to empty offices or spaces to encourage an enhanced level of social distancing. Employees who are able to work in non-business hours shifts are doing so, as well as those who are able to work from home. All services that include member contact, such as in-home energy audits, have been suspended.
While focusing on the safety of our employees and continuity of our services, Owen Electric remains member-centric and understands the hardships families and businesses are facing. Effective Friday, March 13, Owen Electric opted to suspend disconnections for non-payment, days ahead of an order issued Tuesday, March 17 by the Kentucky Public Service Commission to suspend disconnections and late fees; Owen Electric has been fully compliant with this order.
“In 32 years of working in the electric cooperative industry, I’ve never seen anything like the COVID-19 pandemic. Expert opinions and conventional wisdom of what needs to be done seems to evolve and change daily,” Cobb said. “We appreciate the patience and understanding of our employees and members regarding the precautions being taken to protect them. The service we provide is not a luxury—it’s a necessity—and we cannot afford to have our workforce suddenly overwhelmed by illness. We’re committed to staying ahead of the Coronavirus in order to continue providing the quality of service our members need and expect.”