Okla. Co-op Aids Fire RecoveryBy Derrill Holly | ECT Staff Writer Published: August 17th, 2012
An Oklahoma electric cooperative is mobilizing its member services operations to help consumer-members driven from their homes, farms and ranches by recent wildfires.
Central Rural Electric Cooperative is loading up a trailer with brochures, forms and other materials to help get members reconnected to co-op services. Parts of the co-op’s service territory were ravaged by wildfires, Aug. 3-6, and although service has been restored wherever it could be accomplished safely, recovery will take time for many consumer-members.
“Central Rural Electric Cooperative will be there with you, helping to rebuild your community,” David Swank, CEO of the Stillwater-based co-op, told members recently. “People have lost homes, property and possessions.”
Areas served by CREC that surround several communities, including Stillwater, suffered significant fire damage. Several of the communities are as much as a 40 minute drive from the cooperative’s office, so staffers decided to take member services to locations near the fire-ravaged areas.
“There’ve been dozens of homes destroyed, and our consumer-members and commercial and industrial accounts have lost hundreds of other structures to the fires,” said Jeff Joiner, the co-op’s communications specialist.
In some cases, members who have lost homes need to suspend service; in others, service needs to be relocated to temporary housing or other account modifications are needed. A trailer, typically used for district meetings and other community events, will be taken to three locations in the co-op’s service territory, Aug. 21-23.
Member services personnel will have applications for disaster relief grants from the Central Rural Electric Cooperative Foundation, which is funded by Operation Round Up.
Also available will be Touchstone Energy® Co-op Connections Cards and lists of local businesses offering discounts for co-op members. There also will be information on rebate programs offered by the co-op for energy-efficient appliances and certain home improvements and tips for safely using backup generators.
While members could access many of these services online or by telephone, co-op staff saw value in making a human connection as fire-ravaged communities grapple with the hardships of recovery.
“This gives our member services representatives a chance to be there on the ground and in the community,” Joiner said. “We think this will show members how important it is to be there when they need us following a disaster.”
To sign up for the latest Weather Effects news alerts, click here.