From blizzards to tornadoes, the Basin Electric SRS team managed it all

When historic blizzard, Silas, hit western and central North Dakota starting April 12, the Security and Response Services (SRS) team anticipated members would need extra help to keep power flowing. What they didn’t expect is that during the same period of time, two tornados would wipe out the service area of cooperatives SRS serves: Bartlett Electric Cooperative in Texas and Prairie Energy Cooperative in Iowa.

While North Dakota got large amounts of snow, Bartlett Electric and Prairie Energy had thousands of meters affected by tornados.

No matter the weather, it’s crucial that SRS has employees available to serve members, but getting employees in-and-out of Headquarters proved difficult.

cot in studio
A cot set up for an employee to sleep between shifts.

“Because of the snow, some employees were stranded at home, so I picked up a handful of folks and was able to bring them into the office. For others, we were able to get them setup to work remotely,” says Chad Reisenauer, Basin Electric director of Community and Member Relations.

For those employees who were able to come into the office, cots were set up in various work spaces, like the photo studio and mothers’ rooms. “Basically any place we could find that had privacy and controllable lights so they could get it dark,” Reisenauer says.

Meals were also prepared in advance by Co-op Café (the Headquarters cafeteria), and employees could bathe using the gym showers. The Maintenance team worked diligently to keep the parking lot clean to help with stranded vehicles.

“This took a whole village to ensure that we continued to deliver high-quality service with really no visible interruption in that service,” says Jolene Johnson, Basin Electric supervisor of SRS dispatch.

During the storms, SRS received roughly 5,400 phone calls. On an average weekend, they receive closer to 3,000.

SRS area
The SRS team taking storm-related calls.

“Our members in North Dakota didn’t have as much service interruption as we expected. It was actually the areas hit by tornados that needed a lot of our focus. It would have been a tough situation for them if we hadn’t been able to get employees to Headquarters to assist them,” Johnson says.

The primary reason SRS exists is to keep our lineworkers safe and get power back up and running in Basin Electric’s members’ service areas, and that’s exactly what they did.

“We have a great team here in dispatch who really care about our members. Many went above and beyond – some employees worked around the clock until their relief arrived. We couldn’t have made it through without the help of everyone pulling together and doing their part,” says Johnson.