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Powering Puerto Rico
By Sam Taylor on March 6, 2018
We welcome back two employees who answered the call to help families living months without power.
Imagine your family living without electricity for months until a group of friendly faces show up at your front door ready to get the lights on for you. Your reaction might be similar to that of the Puerto Rican family in this video, whom Construction Manager Larry Aguayo and Senior Safety Manager Manuel Gonzalez helped last month.
Larry and Manuel returned home safely yesterday after working 12 to 14-hour days in Puerto Rico for about a month to support initiatives to rebuild the island’s power grid. The team served as liaisons between Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and other utilities.
The two veteran employees joined the work of thousands sent to assist Puerto Ricans who have remained without power since Hurricane Maria destroyed two-thirds of the island’s power distribution system in September.
While the destruction created obstacles for crews, Larry and Manuel didn’t let it stop them from making an impact on families in dire need of help. A family with a son dependent on a respirator kept it running on a generator since the hurricane hit more than 160 days ago. Manuel worked with American Public Power Association (APPA) crews to come to their rescue. APPA collaborated with a team from ConEdison working in the south portion of the island (Ponce) to get them wire and materials.
“I was a mess the entire day after hearing about this family’s hardship during a daily materials and logistics call,” said Manuel. “I had to find a way to help. I looked for two weeks and found some materials that our Public Power crews had been waiting on, but we made the decision to send it down to the ConEd folks to get this family power. Best decision I’ve ever made.”
“The locals are amazing,” he added. “They feed crews home-cooked meals all the time with their own food. That’s been a big way that locals are showing their appreciation for our assistance.”
The veteran employees used their skills and expertise in the Carolina region, where like other regions, power restoration has been hampered by material shortages. One of Manuel’s main jobs was to inventory all materials that arrived in the yard and discern what materials each crew needed for specific jobs, while Larry spent most of his time on the road with crews.
Despite being 2,000 miles away from home and work, Larry and Manuel shared CPS Energy’s strong safety values to keep workers as safe as possible. They constantly reminded crews to avoid shortcuts and put safety first to avoid injury.
And while both are safe back at home, our work in Puerto Rico is far from over. A second team of our employees – Manager of Customer Construction Richie Conner and Manager of Distribution Planning Ricardo Renteria – traveled to the island on Friday, March 2, to continue assisting with safety efforts and materials and supplies distribution for about 30 days. According to PREPA, about 90 percent of power in Puerto Rico has been restored. Officials have said they expect power to be fully restored by May.
Larry and Manuel, thanks for an excellent job of putting People First in Puerto Rico and representing CPS Energy with your great skill and expertise! Richie and Ricardo, thanks for answering the call and stay safe as you help power Puerto Rico!