It feels like we’re slowly, or maybe quickly, getting to the point where we’re not allowed out of our homes… and some people might be “asked” to remain on the job site 24 hours a day.
To make sure that the lights stay on, the U.S. electric industry may ask essential staff to live on site at power plants and control centers if the coronavirus outbreak worsens. Providers have been stockpiling beds, blankets, and food for just in case, according to industry trade groups and electric cooperatives.
By keeping workers on site, providers can try to stop the spread of the virus among those key employees so that they don’t suddenly lose the very people who make things go.
Scott Aaronson, vice president of security and preparedness at the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the nation’s biggest power industry association, said:
“The focus needs to be on things that keep the lights on and the gas flowing. Some 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.”
Maria Korsnick, president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, said that some of the nation’s nearly 60 nuclear power plants are also “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.”
Electric power plants, oil and gas infrastructure and nuclear reactors are considered “critical infrastructure” by the federal government. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is charged with coordinating plans to keep them operational during an emergency.
Mike McFarland, director of enterprise risk management for the Great River Energy cooperative in Minnesota, said, “We saw this coming.” He wasn’t referring to covid-19 specifically, instead he referenced a viral pandemic that might lead to such a situation. Great River drafted contingency plans for a pandemic after the H1N1 bird flu crisis in 2009, and is now using that as a template to react to the coronavirus.
If the new virus hits the region hard, McFarland said sequestering could happen. He said the protocol, which could keep workers from the outside world for weeks, would be “effectively voluntary” but did not elaborate.
That doesn’t exactly instill confidence.
It’s nice to be wanted, but this seems excessive.