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Energy Exec Says He's Willing To Go To Extreme Measures To 'Keep the Lights On and the Gas Flowing'

Attention, people: You are just as hungry as you were before COVID-19. You don’t need more toilet paper or paper towels than you already had. You don’t need to hoard. Things will be all right.
I know, things will be difficult for a spell. My internet was having problems on Saturday and Sunday and I felt like the world was ending. But it wasn’t, my internet is getting back to normal and things will be fine — thanks to the tireless blue-collar workers who brave the possibility of getting the virus and go out to work on our infrastructure every day, trying to keep us not only safe but comfortable.
The world wasn’t coming to an end. I was fine. I didn’t need to prep for the end.
If you don’t believe that, the energy industry wants to make sure you know how hard its workers are going to fight to keep the lights from going out. And, according to Reuters, the industry is supporting them by “stockpiling beds, blankets, and food for them.”
Electrical plants are, of course, defined as “critical infrastructure,” which means not only do electrical workers have to work through this but they might have to stay on-site. 
Essential staff, therefore, will be living at our nation’s power plants and the associated infrastructure that makes it all work. One energy executive talked about how they’re making sure those employees can live there comfortably.
“The focus needs to be on things that keep the lights on and the gas flowing,” Scott Aaronson, vice president of security and preparedness at the nation’s largest power industry group, the Edison Electric Institute, said.
He added that “companies are already either sequestering a healthy group of their essential employees or are considering doing that and are identifying appropriate protocols to do that.”
Nuclear Energy Institute President Maria Korsnick said that some of America’s 60 nuclear plants are “considering measures to isolate a core group to run the plant, stockpiling ready-to-eat meals and disposable tableware, laundry supplies and personal care items.”
Meanwhile, this is something that a top official with an energy company said they had prepared for.
“We saw this coming,” Mike McFarland, director of enterprise risk management for Minnesota’s Great River Energy cooperative, told Reuters.
Great River Energy, which supplies electricity to 1.7 million Minnesotans and runs 10 power plants, says that it’s ready to sequester essential employees if necessary, having built up a stockpile of cots and blankets.
The company first developed its plan in the wake of the H1N1 pandemic in 2009.
At present, the co-op has activated only its “medium threat level” plan. 
That involves increasing distance between employees and allowing noncritical work to be done remotely.
Sequestration at plants would happen only if Minnesota is hit hard by the virus. While McFarland didn’t elaborate, he said that it would be “effectively voluntary.” The worst-case scenario involves Great River losing two-thirds of its staff.
It’s not just stockpiling cots and meals, either. According to the Statesville, North Carolina Record & Landmark, Duke Energy, which provides electricity to 7.7 million customers and gas to 1.6 million, is donating not only to local charities but also to a fund its employees can access when they’re in need, Relief4Employees.
“To aid in providing continued service to our customers through this event, Duke Energy will also expand assistance to employees, in order to maintain the highest level of service to customers,” a news release read.
The company will donate $1.3 million to charities in its six-state service area; of that, $100,000 will go to Relief4Employees.
And remember, these employees are some of the biggest heroes in this crisis.
Blue-collar workers everywhere are on the front line, not just those in the energy sector.
From hospital staffers to retail employees, Americans are working hard to keep you and your family safe, healthy and comfortable. They’re some of the people most at risk for catching COVID-19.
They’re also the ones who will ensure we won’t be living out some sort of apocalyptic scenario.
Don’t panic. And if you get a chance, thank one of the people out there doing work to ensure you can be ensconced at home without discomfiture.
Make sure, however, you do it from at least a few feet away.

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