The Wire

Energy news from Omaha Public Power District

75th Anniversary

Housing and feeding hundreds involved new solutions

July 16, 2021 | Julie Wasson | community, mutual aid, restoration
7132021_6510 Pine St staging area_UNO

The severe storm that blew through OPPD’s service area early on July 10 knocked out power to more than 188,000 customers, a record number of outages from one storm.

OPPD worked quickly to mobilize all of its crews, plus crews from companies it contracts with and mutual aid partners from other parts of Nebraska and beyond. Hundreds of crew members and personnel have been working around the clock since Saturday to restore power to all of OPPD’s customers.

And OPPD has also received valuable support from the Omaha area community.

Mutual aid activated

Hundreds of mutual aid crew members headed to Omaha on Saturday. Dennis Snook, emergency preparedness business continuity manager at OPPD, said the utility’s logistics team was exhausting local housing resources as it worked to find rooms for visiting crews.

“There were large events across Omaha that made finding hotel rooms extremely difficult,” he said.

OPPD had never used dorm rooms on college campuses to house visiting crews in the past, but he said other utilities across the country have.

So Snook, who is also an adjunct professor at UNO in the Emergency Management Program, reached out to Diane Mack, the university’s Director of Emergency Management. Soon, OPPD’s logistics team was working closely with Adam Wick, manager of the Scott Residence Hall at UNO, to coordinate arrivals.

“Our initial projections were for around 100 individual crew members to arrive at UNO,” Snook said. “We ended up with more than 175 individuals, and Adam and his team were able to identify additional housing options at the university.”

OUT_July 102021 Storm_Mutual aid crews July 13_UNO
Crews grab breakfast and ice before heading out for storm restoration at the UNO staging area. Photo by Donald Blair/OPPD

New options

Wick said he and his team worked until after 3 a.m. preparing rooms and checking in crew members.

“At UNO we understand how important it is to be a part of this community, and one of the primary jobs for us in on-campus housing is to help people,” Wick said. “We were glad to be able to help.

UNO Chancellor Joanne Li said the university was positioned well, in terms of both location and resources, to support OPPD’s efforts.

“UNO’s campus was right in the center of the storm’s impact, and we wanted the university to be right in the center of the community’s response,” Li said. “We saw both a need and an opportunity to serve: Where better to house power crews and help them recharge than in campus housing located by some of the neighborhoods hit hardest by Saturday’s storms.”

OUT_July 10 2021 Crews breakfast SRH July 15_UNO
OPPD worked with HyVee to provide three meals a day to mutual aid crews helping with storm restoration. Here, they grab breakfast before heading out on July 15, 2021 at UNO. Photo by Donald Blair/OPPD

Community support

And that support was much appreciated.

“Without the relationship with UNO, it would have been impossible to house all of the external crews OPPD has been bringing into the community,” said Richard Swan, OPPD’s Manager of Emergency Operations.

OPPD has also received great support from Hy-Vee. The local grocery store chain provided meals, drinks and ice for the crews.

And members of the community have helped as well. Customers have generously providing drinks and snacks, along with thank you notes, for the crews.

“I am truly grateful for and appreciate the community support and collaboration,” Snook said.

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About Julie Wasson

Julie Wasson is the brand journalism strategist at Omaha Public Power District and the editor of The Wire. She has more than 25 years of print journalism and social media experience, including two stints at the Omaha World-Herald.

View all posts by Julie Wasson >

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