In August 2021, we sent more than 100 employees and contractors to Louisiana to help repair utility infrastructure damage and restore energy service for thousands of customers impacted by Hurricane Ida.
Over the years, Delmarva Power has sent hundreds of crews and support personnel to assist energy companies in the Mid-Atlantic and across the country, as part of regional mutual assistance networks. To help provide a firsthand account of our mutual assistance efforts, Delmarva Power Journeyman Lineman, Zach Oberender, sat down with us to share his experiences during this nearly three-week restoration effort.
Timothy: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today, Zach. Really looking forward to learning about your efforts in Louisiana. To kick us off, I think our readers would be interested to hear about the type of damage you saw on the ground, once you arrived in Louisiana.
Zach: Thanks for having me. Happy to share my experiences. Arriving in Louisiana and seeing the damage to property and the infrastructure was heart-breaking. Poles and electrical equipment were damaged at every turn, including a majority of the residents’ personal property. It was really tough to see.
Timothy: That’s not surprising to hear, given the national media coverage highlighting the aftermath of the storm. Can you tell us what it was like to see and work in this type of environment?
Zach: I was really shocked to see this type of damage following the impacts of Hurricane Ida and the level of dismay that it brought to Louisiana; I’ve never seen anything like it before. You could tell from the damage that this wasn’t your typical storm. This hurricane was big and strong, and it was on a mission to wreak havoc on anything in its path.
While the environment presented a number of challenges to our teams and others taking part in this restoration effort, our safety training was top of mind. Our goal was to complete the work as quickly as possible to help those in the community, with safety at the forefront of everything we worked to achieve. We wanted to ensure we left Louisiana in the same manner we arrived—safe and healthy. We accomplished that.
Timothy: What kind of work did you and your team handle as part of the restoration efforts in Louisiana?
Zach: My fellow crewmembers and I worked primarily on replacing damaged poles, electrical wires, transformers and other various pieces of electrical equipment—all in an effort to restore power to the local community.
Timothy: Where in Louisiana did you and your team complete your assigned restoration work?
Zach: A majority of our time was spent in the Terrebonne Parish area of Houma, La. Residents in the area were struck hard by the storm so it was great to hit the ground there and support the restoration work needed for those impacted.
Timothy: I’m sure you’ve heard this before but I want to make sure I say thank you for your efforts in Louisiana on behalf of Delmarva Power. I know these mutual assistance opportunities are volunteer based so I’d like to know what you enjoyed most about offering your time to help with the restoration work in Louisiana?
Zach: Thank you for that, Timothy. The most enjoyable part of this excursion, for me, was being able to help the community get back to normal. I knew that our work would be beneficial in helping residents begin to take their first steps into normalcy. The community was fantastic to us, showing us their appreciation from when we got there to when we left. I’ll be forever grateful for their support as we wanted to do a good job for them in everything we did.
Timothy: Why did you decide to volunteer for this or any other mutual assistance request?
Zach: The reason I volunteered for this is simple. I put myself in the shoes of those people impacted by this storm. If a storm like Hurricane Ida hit my home, I know I would appreciate all the volunteers that came from multiple states in relief efforts.
Helping others in need is important for our future success and what I think we all should do more often when possible.
Timothy: Why do you think participating in mutual assistance opportunities outside of your service area is so important?
Zach: We lineworkers see each other as one big family. It’s like a brother/sisterhood. We want to show support when we can to those areas suffering due to weather related impacts, just like we would want that same support when we’re in need. It was an honor to work side-by-side with my Exelon family and others from outside utilities throughout North America.
Timothy: Again, Zach, it’s been great speaking with you and thank you again for your efforts. In closing, I’d just like for you to share with us what you think others should know about these mutual assistance opportunities?
Zach: Thanks again for the opportunity, Timothy. I truly think it’s important for others to know the hard work put into preparing for these types of mutual assistance events. The tasks of prepping equipment and supplies and ensuring that everything we do from the start of our trip to when we return back home is done with safety in mind.
The outcome from these events is always fulfilling because you see the positive results of your work and how important that work was to those in the community. While I hope these opportunities are few and far between , I know we are ready to answer that call again if needed.