Opportunity to help a utility and community in need presents itself for Peoples Gas

TECO's mobile command center rolls up in Fort Pierce to help get the big job of restoration done.

TECO’s mobile command center rolls up in Fort Pierce to help get the big job of restoration done.

Swap Santa’s sleigh and his reindeer for TECO’s mobile command center and a Peoples Gas crew and you get a sense of the warm holiday feelings that having your natural gas back on can bring.

That’s the scene right now in Fort Pierce, Florida, where 20 Peoples Gas team members arrived on the morning of Dec. 17 to help the Fort Pierce Utilities Authority (FPUA) restore service for up to 2,500 of its customers. It’s the latest example of TECO’s commitment to a mutual assistance pact among utilities in action.

And action doesn’t get much cooler than when it involves the mobile command center.

“It’s fantastic, seeing this extremely impressive vehicle in “full dress” mode in an actual outage situation for the first time,” said Lance Horton, manager of Standards & Technical Services with Peoples Gas and a coordinator of TECO’s Fort Pierce effort. “People get big smiles on their faces just watching it pull in; they’re snapping photos of it.”

As exciting as the mobile command center is, Horton said the real stars of the show are the team members restoring gas service alongside crews from FPUA and other utilities.

Peoples Gas crews plan their restoration work in Fort Pierce.

Peoples Gas crews plan their restoration work in Fort Pierce.

“For people whose experience lies in electric restoration, finding out what goes into getting natural gas service restored can be a bit of a shock,” Horton said, adding that FPUA has been extremely well-organized with its restoration plans to make it easier for outside crews to help.

First, the utility must identify all of its customers experiencing the outage. (“This isn’t always easy, depending on the configuration of the system,” Horton said.) Next, crews go to the site of each impacted home or business to shut off and lock all meters. After that, the utility will reintroduce gas pressure back into the system. Crews must then find any air trapped in the gas lines and purge it. Finally, crews enter each service location to physically turn on individual natural gas appliances. If the customer isn’t home, crew members leave a door tag and return at the earliest opportunity after the customer contacts them.

“We expect most of the customers to be restored by Sunday, Dec. 21; in the end, it will have been a week-long outage,” Horton said – emphasizing the pride that the crew from TECO takes in helping another utility and community.

“It’s a great opportunity for our team members to show how well-trained they are and how well-equipped we are with the mobile command center,” he said. “We’re demonstrating that we can put a great team effort together in short order. It’s a testament to how TECO operates and cares.”

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