Electric co-ops and a culture of safety

There is a children’s book titled Safety 1st, Safety Always. As you can imagine, it encompasses many of the traditional safety lessons parents should teach their children. We drill youngsters about safety from an early age because we know how important it is to protect ourselves and those we care about. In the spirit of May being National Electrical Safety Month, let’s take a look at how electric cooperatives have been stepping up to the plate when it comes to safety at the co-op.

Up until 2007, there was an alarming national trend among electric co-ops, which was the fact that the number of “lost time” accidents was increasing. Lost time is defined as anything resulting in an employee missing time at work; these accidents could range from a sprained ankle to the ultimate tragedy of a fatality.

This is why Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange, which insures the vast majority of electric co-ops nationwide, initiated a campaign called a “Culture of Safety.” It was designed to create a much greater awareness about safety issues at all electric co-ops.

Through the use of strategy labs across the country, Federated brought together co-op CEOs and general managers, operations supervisors, safety directors and linemen to better understand how each group viewed safety. In doing so, differences in perceptions regarding safety within cooperatives were identified, allowing for much needed conversations and evaluations of how to raise awareness and improve local safety cultures. The “Speak Up, Listen Up program is designed to empower anyone who sees a potentially unsafe situation to Speak Up and encourages everyone to Listen Up to their concerns. The results have been dramatic, with more than a 30 percent decline in the number of accidents over the past nine years.

As a member, you too have a role. If you see any potential dangerous situations or practices, you should report them as soon as possible to your local electric cooperative.

The implementation and success of the Culture of Safety program demonstrates a very important point. If we are intentional about our actions, we can indeed change the culture in our organizations. The same is true for our families, our teams and any groups we may belong to.

We also know that living our cooperative principles and values is equally important. We have the best business model because it puts you, the member-owner, at the center of our efforts.

We look forward to being your safe electricity provider and energy advisor long into the future. For more information about electric safety, visit everydaysafe.org.

Adam Schwartz is the founder of The Cooperative Way a consulting firm that helps co-ops succeed. He is an author, speaker and member-owner of the CDS Consulting Co-op. You can follow him on Twitter @adamcooperative or email him at aschwartz@thecooperativeway.coop

Are you prepared for severe weather?

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are carefully monitoring the tomorrow’s threat of severe weather. Electric co-op crews will be on standby to restore power if outages occur.

The American Red Cross recommends an emergency preparedness kit with these supplies in case of a prolonged or widespread power outage:

  • Water—one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
  • Food—non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
  • Flashlight (Do not use candles during a power outage due to the extreme risk of fire.)
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medications (7-day supply) and required medical items
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, deed/lease to home, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • If someone in your home is dependent on electric-powered, life-sustaining equipment, remember to include backup power in your evacuation plan
  • Keep a non-cordless telephone in your home. It is likely to work even when the power is out.
  • Keep your car’s gas tank full.

 

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives also remind members to stay away from downed wires or damaged electric equipment and to use caution when running a generator.

Click here to find contact information for your local electric cooperative.

 

On the Safe Side from Touchstone Energy Cooperatives on Vimeo.

James Baker Recalled as Co-op Giant

Former NRECA President James O. Baker Dead at 77

By Derrill Holly, ECT.coop

James O. Baker, a former NRECA president and longtime Tennessee co-op executive who helped shape the nation’s rural electric cooperative program for more than a generation, died April 11. He was 77.

Baker began his career at Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Cooperative in 1960 as a newly minted electrical engineer, fresh from Vanderbilt University. Over the years, he was an active and visionary champion of co-op issues in Tennessee and at the national level through NRECA.

“Co-op leaders often say that we are ‘standing on the shoulders of giants.’ Mr. Baker was truly one of those giants,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “He was a servant and a leader who had great passion for the people of rural Tennessee.”

James O. Baker, NRECA President (left) and Martin Lowery, NRECA staff greet members during NRECA’s 1997 annual meeting. (Photo By: NRECA)

James O. Baker, NRECA President (left) and Martin Lowery, NRECA staff greet members during NRECA’s 1997 annual meeting. (Photo By: NRECA)

The Donelson, Tenn., native spent much of his life in Murfreesboro, where he worked 19 years in Middle Tennessee EMC’s engineering department before becoming assistant general manager in 1979. He assumed the co-op’s presidency the following year and held that post until his retirement in 2003.

“Mr. Baker’s leadership helped build one of the nation’s strongest electric systems to serve the members of Middle Tennessee Electric, and our cooperative continues to benefit as a result,” said Chris Jones, the current president and CEO of the Murfreesboro-based co-op. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Baker’s daughter, Connie; his son, Mark; and all of the family.”

Baker became Tennessee’s representative on the NRECA board in 1985, and was elected to numerous leadership posts in the 1990s, serving as president for two years beginning in 1997.

“Jim was a strong advocate of strategic planning and served as the chair of the NRECA board strategic planning committee prior to being elected to the officer ranks of NRECA,” said Martin Lowery, NRECA executive vice president, member and association relations. “I remember very clearly his perspective on planning in his often-used phrase, ‘What gets focused on gets done.’ ”

According to NRECA officials, Baker’s influence in strengthening the association’s resolutions process to provide guidance for member co-ops on critical policy issues was among his major achievements.

He was also the driving force behind the creation of NRECA’s transmission and distribution engineering committee in 1991, which continues to keep co-ops current with changing technology and helps the Rural Utilities Service maintain its support for engineering standards.

“Throughout his tenure on the NRECA board, Jim was always looked up to by his fellow board members as a soft-spoken leader and voice of unity,” Lowery said.

Become a Co-op Voter

When was the last time you voted?

As member-owned electric cooperatives, voting is already in our DNA. It’s how we maintain an electric utility which is responsive to the consumers it serves. But voting also plays a crucial part in our representative democracy. Federal, state and local elections offer an opportunity to exercise a civic responsibility — to select the best leaders for our communities.

Yet in places all over America, even those served by electric cooperatives, citizens aren’t exercising that right.

In the 2012 national elections, voter turnout dropped overall, but the decline in rural counties was 18 percent—twice that of the nation as a whole.

And when voters miss the chance to vote, they also lose the opportunity to communicate their concern to our leaders about the issues that matter to us, where we work, live, and raise families.

Reliable electricity, access to rural broadband and the quality of our healthcare system are just a few issues we all care about. Still, they only become priorities if enough people show elected officials that they are paying attention. Registering to vote and voting are the most effective ways to send this message.

When we go to the polls with the cooperative principle of “Concern for Community” in mind, we instantly improve our political system. It’s a system designed to produce a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” People like you and me.

I’d like you to join me in a new initiative to get every eligible person registered to vote—you, me, our family and friends—and take the pledge to BECOME A CO-OP VOTER.

America’s electric cooperatives are launching a campaign to help get out the vote and insert issues important to co-ops into the public discussion. Called “Co-ops Vote,” this effort will help boost voter turnout in areas served by cooperatives across the country to ensure that our voices are heard loud and clear every day, and especially on Election Day.

Here’s what you can do to help. Visit the Co-ops Vote web site, WWW.VOTE.COOP, and take the pledge to BECOME A CO-OP VOTER to support your community and electric cooperative when casting your vote in 2016. The web site will give you information on your elected officials and candidates, the voter registration process, election dates and locations, and background about eight key co-op issues we want our elected leaders to understand: rural broadband access, hiring and honoring veterans, low-income energy assistance, cyber-security, water regulation, rural health care access, affordable and reliable energy, and renewable energy.

Co-ops Vote is a non-partisan program developed by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives. With 42 million members across the nation, electric co-ops are a powerful voice on national issues that have a local impact.

If you have any questions, please visit WWW.VOTE.COOP. I hope to see you at the polls!

 

 

Young Leaders Descend on State Capitol for Youth Leadership Summit

Speaker Beth Harwell today greeted students from across Tennessee attending the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s annual Youth Leadership Summit in Nashville. Harwell welcomed the young leaders to the House Chamber of the Tennessee State Capitol this morning and spent time explaining her role as speaker of the House and the process that is required to pass legislation.

Rep. Kevin Dunlap also addressed the group and encouraged them to stay active and involved. “You are already leaders or you would not be here today,” he said. “He also helped students understand the role electric cooperatives play in rural Tennessee. “The electric co-ops were created because there was a problem: rural Tennessee did not have the privilege of electricity,” said Dunlap. “Our leaders and citizens worked together to form the electric cooperatives and solve the problem.”

Senators Mike Bell, Richard Briggs and Ferrell Haile and Representatives Kent Calfee, Kevin Dunlap, Dan Howell, Jay Reedy and David Shepard joined Harwell and Dunlap for a town hall meeting with students in the House Chamber.

The theme of this year’s summit is “Small Towns, Big Ideas,” and attendees are encouraged to use their talents to improve rural Tennessee. “Local electric co-ops, school officials and guidance counselors chose these deserving students to attend the summit based on their interests in government and strong leadership abilities,” says Todd Blocker, vice president of member relations for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “During this year’s Youth Leadership Summit, we hope to teach these exceptional students that advances in technology have created unique career opportunities in their hometowns. They will be the next generation of leaders in rural Tennessee, and we want to prepare them for the challenges and opportunities they will face.”

“We want these students to share our passion for rural Tennessee and help them appreciate the things that make our rural communities special,” said David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Each year we plan to encourage these young leaders, but they always manage to turn the tables. We are the ones moved by their optimism and vision, and we can truly say that the future of rural Tennessee is bright. ”

 

Tennessee’s co-ops express concern over sale of TVA Bellefonte site

In a letter to Sherry Quirk, TVA executive vice president and general counsel, on Friday, March 18, TECA CEO David Callis expressed concern with the proposed sale of the TVA Bellefonte nuclear site.

“Our membership is concerned with the disposition of the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant Site,” said Callis. “We understand that Bellefonte isn’t needed in TVA’s current IRP. However, we are troubled that this valuable power asset could be sold as surplus property in a public auction.”

“Tennessee’s cooperatives believe this decision requires a thorough evaluation process that takes into consideration the full value of the site – both current and future needs,” said Callis. “While it may be two decades before TVA needs additional generation (potentially from the Bellefonte site), the value of TVA’s rights-of-way for high voltage transmission lines is too great to risk their loss. In today’s environment, securing paths and siting for new electric lines and substations is costly and time consuming.”

The letter also urged the TVA Board to consider additional input from TVA’s existing Public Advisory Councils and the Local Power Companies that depend on TVA.  Callis also expressed co-op support for the comments of the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association is the service association representing the interests of Tennessee’s 23 electric distribution cooperatives and the 2.5 million rural and suburban consumers they serve.

Be a Co-op Voter

When was the last time you voted?

As member-owned electric cooperatives, voting is already in our DNA. It’s how we maintain an electric utility which is responsive to the consumers it serves. But voting also plays a crucial part in our representative democracy. Federal, state and local elections offer an opportunity to exercise a civic responsibility – to select the best leaders for our communities.

Yet in places all over America, even those served by electric cooperatives, citizens aren’t exercising that right.

In the 2012 national elections, voter turnout dropped overall, but the decline in rural counties was 18 percent—twice that of the nation as a whole.

And when voters miss the chance to vote, they also lose the opportunity to communicate their concern to our leaders about the issues that matter to us, where we work, live, and raise families.

Reliable electricity, access to rural broadband and the quality of our healthcare system are just a few issues we all care about. Still, they only become priorities if enough people show elected officials that they are paying attention. Registering to vote and voting are the most effective ways to send this message.

When we go to the polls with the cooperative principle of “Concern for Community” in mind, we instantly improve our political system. It’s a system designed to produce a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” People like you and me.

I’d like you to join me in a new initiative to get every eligible person registered to vote—you, me, our family and friends—and take the pledge to BECOME A CO-OP VOTER.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives have joined America’s electric cooperatives in launching a campaign to help get out the vote and insert issues important to co-ops into the public discussion. Called “Co-ops Vote,” this effort will help boost voter turnout in areas served by cooperatives across the country to ensure that our voices are heard loud and clear every day, and especially on Election Day.

Here’s what you can do to help. Visit the Co-ops Vote web site, WWW.VOTE.COOP, and take the pledge to BECOME A CO-OP VOTER to support your community and electric cooperative when casting your vote in 2016. The web site will give you information on your elected officials and candidates, the voter registration process, election dates and locations, and background about eight key co-op issues we want our elected leaders to understand: rural broadband access, hiring and honoring veterans, low-income energy assistance, cybersecurity, water regulation, rural health care access, affordable and reliable energy, and renewable energy.

Co-ops Vote is a non-partisan program developed by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives. With 42 million members across the nation, electric co-ops are a powerful voice on national issues that have a local impact.

If you have any questions, please visit WWW.VOTE.COOP or contact your local electric cooperative. I hope to see you at the polls!

TECA’s Knotts graduates from MIP

Mike Knotts, vice president of government affairs for TECA, recently completed an intensive program in electric utility management with the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The Robert I. Kabat Management Internship Program (MIP) is a series of workshops offered by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin. The program guides participants through all facets of the electric utility industry, including the many changes occurring around the nation.

Knotts is one of only a few electric utility leaders that will graduate from the Management Internship Program this year.

“MIP provides the opportunity to network with other co-op leaders and engage in high-level, in-depth discussion of the issues facing co-ops,” says Knotts. “Completing this program has helped me to better understand the difficult decisions that co-op CEOs and Directors face each and every day. I’m excited to put this education to work for the benefit each of the electric cooperatives of Tennessee.”

MIP participants go through three 10-day sessions designed to challenge and educate participants in new, innovative management techniques. Participants leave with a better understanding of what consumers want and how to ensure they get it.

Rural electric cooperative CEOs and top level management participate in the Management Internship Program. This allows greater emphasis of study on management challenges and the aspects of consumer-ownership that cooperatives enjoy. Participants learn focus on member value as part of day-to-day decision making.

 

Members take co-op message to legislators

NASHVILLE – More than 250 members and employees from Tennessee’s electric cooperatives were in Nashville on Monday and Tuesday, March 7 and 8, for the 2016 Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s Legislative Conference. Attendees met with their legislators on Capitol Hill to help them better understand electric cooperatives and the issues that impact rural and suburban Tennessee.

House Speaker Beth Harwell welcomed the group to Nashville. “You serve 71 percent of our state and 2.5 million Tennesseans,” she said. “We recognize the impact you have on our state.”

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives maintain a visible presence in Nashville and Washington, D.C., to protect the interests of co-op members. “We are here to give a voice to rural Tennesseans,” says David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.

“Legislators consider bills that have serious consequences for co-ops and the communities they serve. We must tell the electric cooperative story and educate lawmakers about the impact of proposed legislation,” says Callis. Attendees reminded legislators that co-ops are not-for-profit, member-owned and –regulated private businesses that impact rural and suburban Tennessee in many ways.

Visits focused on specific legislation that impacts co-ops and the communities they serve. Co-op leaders expressed support for a bill that allows electric co-ops to provide broadband Internet service. “We serve the areas with the greatest need for broadband,” says Mike Knotts, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We have a role to play in bringing high-speed connectivity to rural Tennessee.” Co-ops also voiced their support of legislation that modernizes the tax code for co-ops and discussed the impact of the recent Supreme Court decision to halt implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

“Educated and informed legislators are necessary for us to provide low-cost, reliable power, and our members make a powerful impression when they come to Nashville,” says Knotts. More than 100 legislative visits were made during the conference, and dozens of legislators from across the state attended a reception honoring members of the Tennessee General Assembly.

MTEMC launches new charitable foundation

Middle Tennessee Electric today launched its new charitable foundation SharingChange. The foundation gives members the opportunity to easily give to local charitable organizations.

The move streamlines the cooperative?s charitable efforts and gives members more options on how they can contribute to their communities.

“Over the last 13 years, Middle Tennessee Electric members have donated more than $8 million to over 550 local nonprofit organizations in the four-county service area served by MTEMC,” said Chris Jones, MTEMC President. “Every penny that members donate, 100 percent, goes back to those communities through local charitable organizations.”

A highlight of the new program is the different ways to give. Members can now round up their bill to the nearest dollar; or they can add a fixed amount to each monthly bill; or they can do both.

“We recognized over the years, these were additional options our members wanted in their charitable giving,” said Jones. “For pennies each month, the collective impact on our communities is significant.”

Averaging about $6 dollars per year, the rounding of the bill is the easiest option. If a member?s bill is $48.50, the bill is rounded up to $49, and that 50 cents is contributed to SharingChange.

“For much less than a cup of coffee a month, our members are changing the lives of their neighbors,” Jones added.

Past grant recipients and their programs included helping fulfill medical needs of local senior citizens, student scholarships, helping control the pet population and even funding local veterans; programs designed to help build camaraderie and find productive, safe ways to deal with conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder.

To learn more about the program, or to begin participating in SharingChange, visit www.SharingChange.org.

“I encourage you to take the steps to do absolutely the easiest good thing, you’ll ever do,” Jones said.

Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation is a member-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperative providing electricity to more than 210,000 residential and business members in Williamson, Wilson, Rutherford and Cannon counties.

For more information, please contact MTEMC Communications Coordinator Josh Clendenen at 615-494-1071 or 615-516-5020.