When the first cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in Ohio, public health experts projected a possible peak of nearly 10,000 new cases per day near the end of April, even with physical distancing measures in place. A surge of this magnitude would require large-scale medical support far outpacing current capacity. Hospitals braced for the worst and communities quickly began making preparations for overflow treatment centers.
AEP Ohio was aware of these plans, too. So teams from across our company began quickly working on plans to support any “alternate hospitals” (anything from community centers to hotels to high school gyms) to make sure they would have the power they needed to treat an influx of patients.
While AEP Ohio has a process in place to handle major storms, the pandemic is a different situation and required a new playbook. The first hurdle required our customer service representatives to work with county Emergency Management Agency personnel across the state to pinpoint where the sites would be.
Our teams took steps to make sure the wires and equipment supplying power to these locations were ready to keep the power flowing if increased demand or weather were a concern. Engineers analyzed performance limits. Line workers and schedulers took on inspections and repairs. And tree trimmers cleared away vegetation.
According to Project Manager Bryan Brunton, who has been overseeing the effort, the wheels kicked into motion March 30. It took one week to iron out the process and by April 6 inspections and repairs were underway. AEP Ohio is close to wrapping up work on every site across our territory, and power should flow reliably if emergency facilities need it.
“This was all pretty much brand new to us. For many of our employees, it has meant adjusting their work plan and dropping everything to help,” Brunton said. “There’s been an amazing amount of communication, collaboration and teamwork that’s been going on. It’s really cool to see.”