Hurricane season 2021 is in full swing. If one of these storms hits South Central Texas, rest assured GVEC has a plan. We hope to never need to use GVEC emergency planning protocols; however, if a storm comes, we want our membership to know we’ll be ready to get the lights back on as quickly and safely as possible.
We devote considerable time and attention every year toward GVEC emergency planning; we consider it a critical, continuous process. Our storm prep was tested immensely in 2017 during Hurricane Harvey and again in February 2021 when the most severe winter weather in over 40 years hit our area. Our intensive planning, combined with the resiliency, patience and perseverance of our membership and workforce, helped bring us through these storms together, stronger than ever. Here’s how GVEC is preparing for 2021 storms and beyond.
GVEC Emergency Planning & Our Emergency Operations Plan
Working in conjunction with Texas Electric Cooperatives (TEC) and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), GVEC’s Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) is a comprehensive guide for helping us respond both proactively and reactively to electric and fiber system conditions, lines and equipment. This high-level “disaster plan” covers a wide range of circumstances we hope to never face; however, such planning is key to ensuring more timely restoration for our members in the event of a natural disaster such as a hurricane.
Our EOP also covers recognition of potential emergencies and disasters, identification of business and operational functions potentially affecting different scenarios, proactive measures to minimize effects, public communication protocols, staffing and shift requirements, and more.
Being Prepared Takes Practice
To ensure the accuracy and functionality of our EOP, we conduct an annual “tabletop exercise.” Our Control Center conducts frequent drills and checks, as well, to ensure all meters and power delivery systems are updated and communicate as designed, without interruption.
Each emergency situation is different, of course, and this is why more nuanced planning occurs when we know an event is coming. This happened during Harvey and with the winter weather event of February 2021. In both cases, more intensive, situation-specific GVEC emergency planning began as soon as we knew our service territory would be impacted.
Proper Procedure and Execution
To help prepare for mass-outage emergencies, GVEC has established procedural guidelines for securely and systematically restoring power. Working lines in a specific order enables us to restore power during widespread outages to as many members as possible with maximum responsiveness and safety.
This process is carefully mapped, predefined and organized. It’s also overseen by GVEC engineers and linemen who understand the procedures involved, making sure every step is followed correctly and in the proper order. Throughout this process, we strictly follow safety rules, standards and regulations without compromise or deviation.
Tracking the Weather
Our team continuously tracks weather conditions as part of round-the-clock grid monitoring. This process includes closely monitoring reports from the National Weather Service, National Hurricane Center and TxDOT for weather-related information. We also stay up-to-date on local road conditions and stream and river flows. And when conditions warrant, we partner with state and local departments of emergency management, the Texas Public Utility Commission, ERCOT and any other state or local entity necessary.
People Make the Difference
Without our workforce—our people—no amount of planning, practice or procedure could succeed. Having the right people in place, however, isn’t just a matter of staffing and training levels. GVEC team members pride themselves on serving a greater good and on caring about our members and for each other.
This dedication drives our team to work on-call shifts on a nearly cooperative-wide basis during emergencies, allowing us to deliver service throughout these events. GVEC customer service representatives may field thousands of calls a day during emergencies. Restoring power during these events isn’t only the job of GVEC linemen—it’s a cooperative-wide, collaborative effort by a dedicated team who treats each outage as if power needs to be restored at their own homes.
Reminding Members: Be Ready for a Storm
Another important part of GVEC’s storm-prep is working to help members be ready, too. We do this through continual reminders during the season on GVEC social media, articles in The GVEC Review about storm prep, and through convenient applications like SmartHub® and TextPower™.
GVEC Social Media
Whether you follow us on Facebook (@GVECsocial), Twitter (@GVEC_Tweets) or Instagram (@GVEC_INSTA)—or all three (which we wholeheartedly encourage)—GVEC social media is a great place to stay up-to-date on stormy weather across the Cooperative service territory and on the latest outage information. (You’ll also get lots of fun, family-oriented content during non-emergency times).
SmartHub is a free tool for monitoring and managing home electric usage that’s capable of much more. It can also alert you regarding impending bad weather and provide information about power outages in GVEC’s service territory—you can even report outages with SmartHub! If you’re not already using this free app, we urge you to download it from Google Play or Apple’s App Store. Just search for “SmartHub,” download and then type “GVEC” into the search box when prompted to search by location.
Access our customer portal via computer at gvec.org or scan the QR code to download the app for free with your tablet or smartphone.
TextPower is a free texting service (carrier charges may apply) that allows users to report outages, get status updates regarding power restoration and to receive emergency alerts via text message. To use TextPower, you need a current cellphone number registered to your GVEC account—and you can register up to three separate numbers on any GVEC electric account. Once you’ve got a number registered to your GVEC account, you’re all set for TextPower use.
GVEC Emergency Planning Includes You!
Finally, we urge members to keep their account information up-to-date. In case of an emergency of any kind, this is the best way for GVEC to get in touch with you if we need to. You can update all your contact information from the desktop version of SmartHub. Or you can call GVEC customer service at 800.223.4832, Monday to Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and a GVEC customer service representative will be happy to help you get up-to-date or help you get started with SmartHub or TextPower.