Clipper Staff Writer
BOUNTIFUL – Power companies have to do more than just get through a disaster. They have to help everyone else through it as well.
For Bountiful City Light and Power, staying on top of a crisis means moving quickly, getting as much help as they can, and getting enough sleep that they can function for the long haul.
Director Allen Ray Johnson recently gave the Bountiful Rotary a look behind the scenes of the power company’s efforts during last December’s windstorm, emphasizing how much tougher things would have been during a more serious disaster.
“If this had been an earthquake, we couldn’t have ordered 125 sandwiches from Jimmy John’s to feed the volunteers,” he said. “We couldn’t have directed them to a hotel in Woods Cross. In the face of a much bigger event, we would have needed to be more prepared.”
This was also true of residents who lined up outside the power company waiting for information.
“The people coming to our office by far were the ones who weren’t prepared,” he said, mentioning things like food storage and alternative cooking methods.
Once the disaster is on its way, there’s only so much time to get ready. Johnson didn’t get word about the December windstorm until 10 p.m. the night before it hit.
At that point, all he could do was make sure all the trucks were stocked and fueled, additional inventory was purchased, loose items were tied down, and crew sent home to rest.
Even when the damage started piling up, he was careful to make sure everyone got at least a little sleep.
“You don’t want all the horses worn out at the same time,” he said.
Johnson was also careful to call in more help. Bountiful Power has mutual aid agreements with several other independent power companies across the state, and more than a hundred trained workers came to Bountiful to offer assistance.
“It was apparent to me pretty early that we were in trouble, so I started making calls,” he said. “Kaysville called me on Friday and said ‘I think we’re in trouble, but you’ve got everyone.’”
Though they were grateful for the help, the extra workers led to logistics complications. Power company employees needed to figure out where to park the extra vehicles, as well as get basic essentials for volunteers who came up unprepared to be away from home for days at a time.
“I’d heard stories about utility employees working for days at a time, but I’d always thought that could never happen today,” he said. “That was one prediction I was definitely wrong about.”