Preparing for the worst, hoping for the best

Baldwin EMC CEO Karen Moore

Do you remember Frederic? How about Ivan? Or Katrina?

I’ll bet you aren’t wondering who I might be talking about. You know these names don’t refer to a “who,” but instead a “what” – three of the most devastating storms to ever hit the Gulf Coast.

Hurricane Frederic made landfall 37 years ago, but many of Alabama’s longtime residents speak of it as if it happened yesterday.

Ivan and Katrina both occurred more
recently – in 2004 and 2005, respectively. A decade has passed since they hit our area, but the impact of these storms is still prevalent in the landscape of south Alabama and the way we do business at Baldwin EMC.

I came to work at Baldwin EMC just two months before Hurricane Ivan hit our area. I’ll never forget how it felt to hear our then chief executive officer Bucky Jakins explain that every one of our meters had stopped. Our service area was, for a short time, completely in the dark. It was the moment that tested every plan, every employee and every ounce of strength the cooperative had.

Now it’s been 11 years since a major hurricane has hit our area. Many things have changed at Baldwin EMC in that span of time. A significant portion of our workforce was not employed here when Hurricane Katrina came through. We’re under new leadership. We have new facilities. In 2005, Baldwin EMC’s service area consisted of around 60,000 meters. Now, we serve nearly 72,000.

To quote Ben Franklin, the founder of America’s very first cooperative, “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” That’s the wisdom that guides us this year as we peer over predictions and stay closely tuned to weather forecasts. We can’t afford to simply take hurricanes as they come.

To prepare for the worst case scenario, we’ve held meetings for those who’ll be in leadership roles during storm recovery. These meetings consisted of “tabletop drills,” which allowed us to simulate the steps involved in the process of bouncing back from a catastrophic storm.

Baldwin EMC’s emergency response manuals, updated each year, have already been printed and handed out to employees, well in advance of any imminent danger.

While we want to assure you that your cooperative is prepared, we also want to encourage you to begin making preparations of your own. Locate the closest evacuation route to your home, and make sure you know that area well. It never hurts to know a backup route in case your conditions are dangerous and your first route is unavailable. If your family is more likely to shelter in place during a storm, stock up on your hurricane supplies such as batteries, flashlights, plywood and non-perishable foods before they become hard to find.

Take it from your friends at Baldwin EMC, it’s better to have a plan and not need one than to need a plan and not have one.

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