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PSO, AEP, External Partners Teamed Up for Sofidel Success

A successful groundbreaking was had by all! From left, Mike Neal, President and Chief Executive Officer-Tulsa Regional Chamber; Stuart Solomon, PSO President and Chief Operating Officer; Luigi Lazzareschi, Chief Executive Officer-Sofidel Group; Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin; Johannes Schlatter, Project Manager-BHM Ingenieure; Janet Smith, Manager-PSO Economic and Business Development; Peter Oksakowski, Managing Director, BHM Ingenieure Construction; and Mark James, Vice President-AEP Economic and Business Development. The Sofidel project in Oklahoma will be similar to one that’s nearing completion in Circleville, Ohio.

(Story by Ed Bettinger)

Everything related to the new Inola, Oklahoma, tissue paper manufacturing plant announced by Sofidel recently is big.

  • The manufacturing facility will have 1.8 million sq. ft., with potential to double.
  • Sofidel’s investment in the plant will total approximately $360 million.
  • It will provide approximately 500 construction jobs over three years and about 300 regular, full-time jobs when it goes into operation.

 

Another big number is the size of the effort expended by many entities internally and externally to attract Sofidel’s interest in locating their new plant in Oklahoma and, ultimately, to the Inola River Rail Industrial Park.

A unique aspect is that Sofidel purchased the 240-acre site from Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO). The site was part of 2,500 acres owned by PSO that was the location of PSO’s planned Black Fox nuclear power project cancelled in the 1980s. In 2013, PSO elected to make the site available for large economic development projects and had “certified” the site through AEP’s Economic and Business Development Quality Site Program. The program was critical to making sure the property was “Prospect-Ready”.

Ownership of the land meant PSO and AEP were involved in nearly every aspect of the project. Many work groups across PSO and AEP helped make this project happen, including Customer Service, Transmission and Distribution, Land Management, Workplace Services, External Affairs, Legal, Environmental, Rail Transportation, Finance and Accounting and Power Generation.

“If you are an AEP employee who helped with the Inola site certification process in 2014 -2015, or if you responded to a request relating to “Project Autumn” (the code name of the project to ensure confidentiality) over the past few years, then you helped land the project for PSO,” said Janet Smith, manager of PSO Economic and Business Development, who led the effort with Sofidel. “There was great collaboration and there are many employees to thank for their effort.”

More than 14 external partners also were involved in the effort attract and land Sofidel. Without their assistance there would not have been adequate infrastructure, work force or incentives for the Inola site. These included: the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, Tulsa Regional Chamber, Rogers County, Rogers County Industrial Authority, City of Inola, Creek Nation, Cherokee Nation, Indian Nations Council of Government, Grand Gateway, Mayes County Rural Water District, Northeast Technology Center, Inola Public Schools, state and federal agencies including  the Department of Environmental Quality, Oklahoma Department of Transportation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

The core PSO team working on the project consisted of Smith along with  Micah Burdge, PSO Customer Services Engineer; LaDonna File, Senior Real Estate Agent-Real Estate Asset Management; and Michael Gordon, Manager-External Affairs for Northeastern Oklahoma.

“On the electrical power side of the project, PSO and AEP conducted a big effort to ensure we could serve the plant reliably and at an attractive energy cost for Sofidel,” said Burdge.

The core AEP Transmission team included Joe Gilbert, Transmission Project Manager; Ashley Beasley, Transmission Project Management; James Smith, Transmission Planning Engineer; and Alan Ward, Transmission Planning Manager.

On the Distribution side, the job required a joint effort by everyone at PSO’s Chouteau Service Center as well as the line crew from the Vinita Service Center.

“Everyone took into consideration the importance of Sofidel’s decision to locate in this area, and their attitudes and diligence showed it,” said Greg Haire, Supervisor-Distribution Systems, Vinita. “There was a short time period and a lot of work to do to make this happen. Jason Lawson, customer service technician, worked his tail off to keep up with everything, including tree trimming, meetings, and designing the job as well. Our crews completely re-built the three-phase overhead line going to the plant construction area in a very short time. We contracted with Davis Elliot to build a small portion of the line for the temporary power for two 2,000-kVa transformers, and they also did a great job.”

PSO President and COO Stuart Solomon addresses the crowd at the Sofidel announcement.

Haire credited Lawson and Steve Clifton, storekeeper-Vinita, Grove, Chouteau, for coordinating all of the material and getting it delivered on site in a timely manner.

Smith said the AEP Transmission team also deserves applause for their excellent performance working on this very important project. She said Transmission is working toward a target of delivering substation-level service in April next year.

Gilbert is working with a team of transmission line and station engineers to complete the project within an aggressive timeline.

“While we have adequate time for the engineering, procurement and construction activities, completing the project by our internal deadline of April 23, 2019, is critical so as not to delay Sofidel’s start-up schedule,” Gilbert said.

The next step for the transmission team is to focus on engineering of the station with site work planned to begin this June.

The countless efforts by everybody engaged in this project culminated successfully on a sunny, windy day on the Inola site as Sofidel officially announced construction of their major new manufacturing plant, in front of 180 community, state and regional leaders, which was followed by a ceremonial groundbreaking. There were smiles all around.

AEP’s Quality Site Program

In 2013, AEP Business and Economic development initiated a “site certification” program, called the AEP Quality Site Program, to help encourage the development of quality industrial sites in our service territory.  Sites that are ready for construction are critical to success in recruiting new businesses.  More than 40 sites have been certified through various AEP programs since that time.

PSO will continue to market the remaining Inola property for economic development projects in the future.

For more info see www.aeped.com.

 

Obituaries

AEP Service Corporation

John Dolan, 94, retired, AEP Headquarters, died March 17.

Joseph Holbrook, 83, retired, AEP Headquarters, died March 15.

Fedor Kapustin, 91, retired, AEP Headquarters, died March 17.

Bonnie Lefever, 75, Central Operations Center, died March 7.

Appalachian Power Company

Robert Dyke, 74, retired, Oak Hill Office, died March 18.

Wayne Farley, 74, retired, Beckley Service Center, died January 6.

Leanna Ford, 102, retired, Huntington Office, died March 5.

Edsel Johnson, 92, retired, Roanoke Main Office, died March 11.

Roy Mills, 75, retired, Logan Service Center, died March 17.

Raymond Thompson, 82, retired, Clinch River Plant, died February 5.

Forest White, 89, retired, Central Machine Shop, died March 5.

Robert Witcher, 84, retired, Roanoke Main Office, died January 24.

Columbus Southern Power Company

David England, 84, retired, Chillicothe Office, died March 1.

Daryl Gordon, 78, retired, 850 Tech Center, died March 18.

David McCreary, 68, 700 Building-Gahanna, died February 23.

James Rose, 84, retired, 850 Tech Center, died March 2.

Alice Sprague, 80, retired, 850 Tech Center, died March 24.

Arthur Swint, 87, retired, 850 Tech Center, died January 30.

Myron Williams, 96, Wellston Service Center, died March 2.

Lawrence Zarbaugh, 75, retired, 850 Tech Center, died February 23.

Indiana Michigan Power Company

Richard Brown, 77, Cook Nuclear Plant, died March 8.

Gordon Carlson, 89, retired, South Bend Service Center, died March 8.

Joseph Watson, 83, retired, Baer Field Service Center, died March 4.

Ohio Power Company

Alejandro Amaya, 75, retired, Windsor Coal Company, died February 15.

Robert Bowles, 85, retired, Zanesville Office, died March 2.

David Campbell, 69, Kammer Plant, died February 23.

Joseph Carte, 89, retired, Lancaster Office Building, died February 16.

Richard Creeks, 69, Zanesville Service Center, died March 10.

Anthony Flyer, 75, retired, Newark Service Building, died February 20.

Ralph Graves, 84, retired, Canton Eastern Regional Office, died March 26.

Curtis Koshenka, 58, Cardinal Plant, died March 20.

Frederick Shaffer, 86, retired, Findlay Service Center, died February 23.

Public Service Company of Oklahoma

Marjorie Kuehner, 95, retired, Tulsa General Office, died February 17.

Dorothy Lewis, 86, retired, Tulsa General Office, died February 22.

Joe Lola, 89, retired, Tulsa General Office, died March 15.

Jerry Wallace, 63, Northeastern Station 3&4, died March 12.

Southwestern Power Company

William Allen, 83, retired, Shreveport General Office, died February 5.

William Brandon, 97, retired Shreveport General Office, died March 23.

Morris Dodd, 84, retired, Shreveport General Office, died February 19.

Paul Goldsmith, 70, Greenwood Office, died March 4.

Byron Simmons, 83, retired, Shreveport General Office, died February 13.

J.W. Thompson, 93, retired, Shreveport General Office, died March 5.

Texas Central

Wilbur Doty, 86, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died March 23.

Billy Kelly, 71, San Angelo Services, died March 23.

March Retirements

AEP Ohio

Bruce Adams, Chillicothe Service Center, retired March 1 after 18 years of service.

Vincent Howard, Hillsboro Service Center, retired March 31 after 44 years of service.

Cynthia Moore, Athens Service Center, retired March 10 after 24 years of service.

Michael Sanford, Canton General Service Center, retired March 10 after 39 years of service.

John Schmied, Steubenville Service Center, retired March 1 after 33 years of service.

AEP Service Corporation

John Hurley, Renaissance Tower, retired March 10 after 21 years of service.

AEP Texas

Ricardo Acosta, Harlingen Area Office, retired March 31 after43 years of service.

Lanny Aldridge, Abilene Office, retired March 15 after 29 years of service.

Harold Bell, Abilene Office, retired March 29 after 29 years of service.

Larry Borak, Wharton Field Team Office, retired March 1 after 33 years of service.

Robert Dupnik, Aransas Pass Service Center, retired March 3 after 43 years of service.

Eddy Lopez, McCamey Service Center, retired March 17 after 36 years of service.

Gilbert Maldonado, Del Rio Service Center, retired March 24 after 39 years of service.

Alfredo Perez Jr., Central Shops, retired March 31 after 33 years of service.

Appalachian Power Company

Gail Cassady, Fieldale Office, retired March 1 after 36 years of service.

Dennie Cregger, Woodlawn Service Center, retired March 1 after 25 years of service.

Timothy East, Fieldale Office, retired March 1 after 35 years of service.

Thomas McConaghy, Lynchburg Service Center, retired March 3 after 45 years of service.

Debra Mitchell, Roanoke Main Office, retired March 1 after 39 years of service.

Steven Richardson, Roanoke Service Building, retired March 30 after 38 years of service.

Ronald Taylor, Central Machine Shop, retired March 20 after 28 years of service.

Robert Wilson, Fieldale Office, retired March 1 after 29 years of service.

Generation

Richard Christie, Flint Creek Plant, retired March 31 after 39 years of service.

Frederick Greenlee, Mitchell Plant, retired March 1 after 10 years of service.

Bernard Jones, Conesville Plant, retired March 14 after 43 years of service.

William McCain, Pirkey Plant, retired March 31 after 30 years of service.

Gary Mercer, Cardinal Plant, retired March 1 after 39 years of service.

Larry Shourds, Rockport Plant, retired March 12 after 30 years of service.

Walter Smith, Winfield Hydro, retired March 8 after 39 years of service.

Joseph Tanski, Cook Nuclear Plant, retired March 31 after 34 years of service.

Indiana Michigan Power Company

Thomas Lefor, Three Rivers Service Center, retired March 31 after 40 years of service.

William Nance, Muncie Service Center, retired March 31 after 12 years of service.

James Riggle, Muncie Service Center, retired March 1 after 32 years of service.

Thomas Straub, One Summit Square, retired March 1 after 29 years of service.

John Sutton Jr., Muncie Service Center, retired March 15 after 40 years of service.

Frank Zirille, Elkhart Service Center, retired March 7 after 41 years of service.

Public Service Company of Oklahoma

Ricky Lamberson, Mid Metro Office, retired March 13 after 23 years of service.

Jaime Zellow, Grove Office, retired March 10 after 37 years of service.

Southwestern Electric Power Company

David Kelsh, Shreveport Office, retired March 10 after 38 years of service.

Everett McBee, Fayetteville Operations, retired March 1 after 37 years of service.

Courtlyn McCoy, Dolet Hills Lignite Mine, retired March 3 after 30 years of service.

Henry Mitchell, Dolet Hills Lignite Mine, retired March 9 after 32 years of service.

Thomas Thornton III, Hornbeck Service Center, retired March 31 after 35 years of service.

Transmission

Darrell Armstrong, McAlester Operations, retired March 10 after 44 years of service.

Brady Burke, Zanesville Station, retired March 31 after 40 years of service.

Joe Hall Jr., John W. Vaughan Center, retired March 31 after 37 years of service.

James Hobson, Longview Operations, retired March 1 after 33 years of service.

Joe Sanchez, Victoria Service Center, retired March 31 after 36 years of service.

Robert Wilson, Minerva Annex, retired March 9 after 40 years of service.

Teamwork and Community Support Help to Restore Power in Ohio

AEP crews worked 16-hour days to restore power to all residents after a tornado touched down in Grove City, Ohio, April 3, knocking out power for 8,500 customers.

(Story by Scott Fuller and Shawna Hansen)

AEP crews worked 16-hour days to restore power to all residents after a tornado touched down in Grove City, Ohio, April 3, knocking out power for 8,500 customers. Just one week later, on Tuesday, April 10, roads were reopened to the public and early reviews are calling the restoration an across-the-board success.

“This was a true collaborative effort that got more than a months’ worth of work done in five days,” said Jon Cronin, line manager, AEP Transmission’s lead on the project. “Teamwork and having the full cooperation and support of Grove City police, Jackson Township fire department and community officials helping every step of the way made a big difference.”

The EF1 tornado, with wind speeds of 105 mph, destroyed 25 transmission poles and eight distribution poles. There were no reported injuries, though the damage was significant and initially posed a public safety situation because some people were trapped by downed power lines coming into contact with their cars. Fortunately, damage was largely confined to a three-mile stretch along Hoover and Orders roads.

A team from AEP Ohio, AEP Transmission, contractors and Grove City administration coordinated the recovery. Transmission Project Management, Engineering, Line, Operations and Field Services were involved. Procurement assisted by getting wire expedited from Texas in less than 24 hours.

Power was restored to 6,600 customers within 24 hours. By the next day, another 1,300 were switched to alternate power sources. By Friday, the number of customers without power was reduced to 600 – but for this group, the typical quickest fixes had been exhausted. The standard practice is for line mechanics to wait for transmission poles to be erected and energized before restoring power; however, with the hours ticking by for customers without power, the team set out to find better solutions.

“I’ve been at AEP for 38 years. I’ve been on a lot of these things. But I’ve never seen a group of people come together like this to get something accomplished,” said Larry Adkins, senior lineman, Distribution Construction. “AEP, the support contractors, overhead, underground – my Lord, those groups worked so well together. It was amazing.”

Work was temporarily delayed after workers accidentally hit a gas line on Saturday. Collaborative efforts inspired innovative fixes, including Adkins proposing the idea to bore underground to connect to an energized primary that was only 400 feet away. This uncommon approach allowed power to be restored more quickly to a housing development of about 350 customers and a nearby church. By Saturday, April 7, all but 63 customers had been restored using alternative methods. Roughly 40 customers remained without power on Sunday.

At least seven cars were in the path of the destruction, causing a public safety situation with people trapped inside and approximately 450 homes were damaged in the area. Remarkably, there were no reported injuries.

Part of the success, Adkins said, was having unified job briefings that brought everyone together in one spot. During a typical storm, where outages and damages are widespread, a coordinated effort like this is more challenging. Having everyone at one location allowed groups to work together effectively and encouraged out-of-the-box thinking.

The teamwork and persistence didn’t go unnoticed. Residents raved about the response, both in person and on social media. TV crews were onsite most of the week, and AEP Ohio remained fully transparent by giving regular updates on its restoration progress.

Pastor Dale Benson, of Grove City Nazarene Church (known as The Naz) located on Hoover Road, gathered his leadership team the day after the storms to organize support efforts, “Everyone wanted to help, and one way we could do that was to provide meals for locals who were without power and those who were working to restore power,” he said. City officials set up a coffee and donut station every morning, Jimmy Johns donated 100 subs, teams organized full-course meals, including a Taco Bar served at the church, and City BBQ donated a full meal.

In addition to helping with meals, The Naz and the First Baptist Church of Grove City allowed AEP to use their parking lots as staging areas.

More than 100 community members, many of them teens who were out of school due to the power outage, showed up to help clean up debris in the neighborhoods. The church scheduled additional clean up service events on April 11 and May 19.

Project Manager Dawn Mau said that a job of this magnitude would typically take three to four months, “I’ve done a lot of storm restoration and have never seen the public be so appreciative, cooperative and happy to help. It was so good to see everyone working together,” she said.

Extended outages are never good, but given the seriousness of the event and the challenges it created, the response has been deemed a success. There is optimism that lessons learned, innovative problem-solving, collaborative teamwork and community support may carry over into future storm situations.

  • Incident Commander on this project, Dave Callahan, Emergency Preparedness manager, AEP Distribution spoke to ABC6 on Your Side camera crews, thanking residents for their support.
  • AEP Ohio posted a Thank you Grove City video on their Twitter page stating, “During the past week, we’ve witnessed firsthand the true spirit of a community coming together to help one another in time of great need. Thank you to all who offered support, patience and kindness to our crews and to those affected by the tornado.”

Native American Employee Resource Group Attends Pueblo Art Exhibit

Joyce Roberts (left), NATION co-chair, with Wade Smith, Native American Resource Group sponsor.

(Story by Shawna Hansen)

NATION, Native American Tribes Interacting, Observing and Networking, an AEP Employee Resource Group, recently hosted a luncheon and guided tour of the OPEN BORDERS Pueblo Painting Exhibit at Columbus Museum of Art (CMOA).

“We value culture, connections and networking that celebrate diversity and make us all stronger as a result,” said Wade Smith, SVP Grid Development, AEP Transmission, and Executive Co-Sponsor of NATION. Smith also is a member of the CMOA board.

“I feel fortunate to work for a company that allows us the opportunity to learn more about and share our culture and I am so thankful to be here,” said Joyce Roberts, co-chair of NATION and a call center system administrator senior for Public Service Company of Oklahoma in Tulsa.

The Native American Employee Resource Group brings together employees who have an interest in Native American Culture. The goal of the NAERG is to educate, inform and create a greater awareness among AEP employees, customers and the general public about Native American culture, beliefs and values. It also provides a forum to increase business skills through volunteer community outreach.

Flint Creek Celebrates 3 Million Man-Hour Mark With Awards, Safety Messages

Ralph Hudson (left) of the Arkansas Department of Labor and Patricia Hart (far right) of the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission, present a plaque to Flint Creek Plant Manager Carl Handley and Industrial Hygiene Consultant Dianna Tomlinson in recognition of the plant’s achievement of 3 million man-hours without a lost-time accident.

(Story by Peter Main)

Flint Creek Power Plant employees recently gathered for a luncheon to celebrate a safety milestone of 3 million man-hours without a lost-time accident.

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack and representatives of the Arkansas Department of Labor and Workers’ Compensation Commission were on hand to salute the accomplishment.

The period covers Oct. 11, 1996, to Dec. 17, 2017. Also, on Oct. 11, 2017, the SWEPCO plant in Northwest Arkansas marked 21 years without a lost-time accident.

More important than you know

“Since 1996 there were a lot of birthday celebrations, graduations, hunting trips, fishing trips, baseball games, basketball games – a lot of good stuff happened in your lives, didn’t they,” said Patricia Hart, Director of Safety and Health for the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission. “And the fact that you worked safely meant that you and your buddies were there with your families to celebrate those events. You are more important to somebody’s life than you know.”

Hart said safety is a journey. “You have to keep going there every single day, bringing your head screwed on straight, and looking out for your buddy, because you know, it is hard to bring your head screwed on straight every single day, isn’t it? Sometimes you have stuff going on in your life. Maybe it’s good stuff. Maybe it’s not so good stuff. But it’s hard to keep focused. That’s when your buddy keeps an eye out for you and lets you know, hey, put your safety glasses on, put your hearing protection in, watch what you’re doing, because it only takes a second. And that’s a second you can’t get back. Because remember … you’re more important than you know to somebody.”

Small things matter

“I can’t think of a better place to emphasize that small things matter,” said Ralph Hudson, Deputy Director, Arkansas Department of Labor. “Every day, second by second, everybody in this room has proven since 1996, 3 million man-hours, that you understood the fundamental principle that small things matter. Doing the right things, doing it the way you’re supposed to do it …”

Maintenance Mechanic Justin Rice (left) and Welder Machinist Chris Gifford place new decals on the sign at the Flint Creek gate when the plant reached 21 years without a lost-time accident in October 2017.

Hudson emphasized three critical points about staying safe. First is keeping yourself and your coworkers safe so you can go home safe to your family. Second is the company and employees understanding the importance of safety for the corporation’s bottom line – so the company can be successful and you can earn a living. Third is goodwill from the involvement of employees in the community. “Your staying healthy and able to assist, either at your church, volunteering at your school, helping out in some way over at Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity – those are all things that you are offering to the community that go away if your life goes away, or you’re debilitated in some way seriously.”

An elite group

“You’re an elite group,” Hudson said. Since 1985-86, only 75 awards have been presented for 3 million man-hours. “You are in a group of 75 organizations in the last 30 years to get that award. It means something to go out there and do the right thing every time,” Hudson said. For perspective, today there are 72,000 companies doing business in Arkansas.

Congressman Womack also saluted the accomplishment: “Today I’m here to congratulate you for achieving a rare milestone. You’re in rarified air, 3 million hours. This award has only been given out in our state 75 times. You are in some pretty unique company in achieving this particular milestone.”

Flint Creek Power Plant is a 528-megawatt, coal-fueled facility at Gentry, Ark. Flint Creek is co-owned with Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. (AECC) and operated by SWEPCO.

AEP Joins Launch of Congressional Smart Cities Caucus

On March 13, members of AEP’s Smart Columbus team joined in the launch of the Congressional Smart Cities Caucus at a meeting in Washington, D.C. The caucus includes members from both parties who believe that smart technology will make our communities more sustainable, resilient, efficient, livable and competitive.

(Story by Scott Blake)

Cities around the nation are watching Columbus’ efforts under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City grant program. They are looking to see how the city is advancing its transportation network and transforming the way it uses technology to improve the lives of residents.

AEP is a major partner in the Smart Columbus program, investing $175 million in smart enhancements to Ohio’s energy infrastructure. These include electric vehicle charging, renewable energy options, smart meters, smart street lighting and a number of distribution grid projects, like micro-grids and DACR.

On March 13, members of AEP’s Smart Columbus team joined in the launch of the Congressional Smart Cities Caucus at a meeting in Washington, D.C. The caucus includes members from both parties who believe that smart technology will make our communities more sustainable, resilient, efficient, livable and competitive.

They have identified four areas on which to focus their efforts: Mobility, Communications, Workforce, and Sustainability. These topics were discussed by a panel of experts from around the country, including Ryan Houk, Smart City Program Manager with AEP Ohio, and representatives from the Edison Electric Institute, Global Futures, Uber, Verizon and Qualcomm.

Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke opened the meeting and spoke of the need for stakeholder engagement when talking about a Smart Community framework. With AEP and other corporate backers, community groups and city leadership, Columbus has established a broad range of support for their program. Rep. Clarke used this as an example of how other cities might build their own coalitions.

Following Rep. Clarke’s comments, David Owens, former EEI executive vice president, led a panel discussion. The group talked about cyber security and data privacy, sustainability, technology advancements. They also discussed how apps such as It’s Your PowerSM, can provide customers with better information about and more control over their electricity use.

Additionally, electric vehicles were discussed as a way to reduce emissions. The panel also talked about the opportunity for using EVs as a source of electricity. Energy companies would need to be the connection point for a setup like that to work.

In his closing remarks, Owens repeated the need to align our transportation and energy infrastructures with the goal of addressing the social, economic and environmental challenges communities face while establishing a sustainable energy future. Discussions within the caucus will continue through the months of April and May. AEP team members will remain engaged in these conversations and look forward to taking on a leadership role on emerging topic.

Randy Knight Nearly Died in Puerto Rico. His Teammates Saved His Life

Randy Knight (center) is flanked by Bill Wilson (left) and Betty Lou Magnuson. Wilson and Magnuson were two of several employees who came to Knight’s aid when he became critically ill while coordinating restoration efforts in Puerto Rico.

(Story by Scott Fuller)

Like many of our employees, Randy Knight is hardwired to jump in and help when he’s needed. That’s why he raised his hand to volunteer for duty in Puerto Rico, joining AEP’s Incident Management Team to coordinate restoration efforts on the island.

The trip did not go as planned. Knight almost died during his deployment. He was able to make it home safely because of only one reason: His teammates had his back. And now the entire group is being recognized for their commitment to Zero Harm.

“The Incident Management Team literally saved my life,” Knight says.

AEP Hero Award

  • Betty Lou Magnuson – Distribution Dispatching Trouble Coordinator (AEP Ohio)
  • Bruce Hoover – Distribution Line Coordinator Senior (Indiana Michigan Power)
  • Lisa Boggs – Distribution Line Coordinator Senior (Public Service Company of Oklahoma)

AEP Act of Extraordinary Kindness

  • Bill Wilson – Distribution Dispatching Trouble Coordinator Senior (AEP Ohio)
  • Alex Ramirez – Manager Distribution System (AEP Texas)
  • Robert De Leon – Region Support Manager (AEP Texas)
  • Chris Baucom – Safety & Health Manager (Public Service Company of Oklahoma)
  • Mac Simpkins – Manager Distribution System (Appalachian Power)
  • James S. Lyles – Distribution Dispatching Manager (Southwestern Electric Power Company)

 

‘I was getting sicker by the minute’

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September, it devastated the island and left thousands of people without water or electricity for months – the longest blackout in U.S. history. The restoration effort is slow and challenging, but those involved are working hard to try to bring power back. AEP employees on the island have been asked to work 12 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for an expected duration of about 45 days.

The Incident Management Team was the initial group of AEP employees providing on-the-ground support. They arrived in early January to set up logistics and prepare for the first wave of linemen arriving a few weeks later. Knight, a distribution dispatching manager who has been with AEP for 29 years, has the knowledge and supervisory experience that was highly valuable to the work.

The team had just settled into the job when, after only a few days, Knight became extremely sick. He suffered from an upset stomach, dizziness, severe diarrhea and vomiting – most likely from food poisoning. He went to the hotel to rest and get better. He didn’t.

“I was getting sicker by the minute,” Knight said. “It just wouldn’t stop. I wasn’t sure I was going to be alert enough for much longer to even ask for help if I needed it.”

Knight’s illness was especially serious given his history with Type 1 diabetes, a condition in which the pancreas produces very little insulin (a hormone that allows sugar to produce energy). Knight has to constantly monitor his sugar and uses an insulin pump to maintain healthy levels.

With food poisoning wracking his body, Knight’s sugar levels dropped. The situation quickly became critical. Magnuson, Boggs and Hoover stopped by his room to check on him and drop off some laundry, and knew something was wrong. Knight was sweating profusely, cold to the touch and he was shaking from chills. They called an ambulance. He was taken to the hospital, examined and released.

A second opinion

Doctors had recommended that Knight return to his room and rest. But back at the hotel, he didn’t seem any better at all. (The Spanish language barrier hadn’t helped the situation.) Knight was barely responsive and required a wheelchair to get to his room. The team decided to maintain constant surveillance and get him additional medical care.

The ambulance returned. Knight was taken to another hospital and treated for dehydration, low blood sugar and, most dangerously, failing kidneys. He was in the intensive care unit for two days and two more in a regular hospital room. (“The team hasn’t told me everything – I’m sure I would be even more embarrassed if I knew all the details,” Knight said.) He slowly recovered and Magnuson, Boggs and the rest of the team kept watch the entire time.

Knight wanted to stay in Puerto Rico, but out of concern for his safety, he was flown back to the United States as soon as he was physically able.

Before returning to work in Ohio, Knight was checked out by his doctor, who ran his own tests and reviewed the lab work from Puerto Rico. The doctor’s diagnosis: The Incident Management Team had saved Knight’s life by taking him back to the hospital for a second opinion and treating his failing kidneys. Without immediate medical care, he probably wouldn’t have lived through the night.

‘I am so thankful’

Looking back, Knight is humbled by the abundance of care and caution that his teammates displayed. It’s the embodiment of Zero Harm and what we constantly strive to do: look out for each other to make sure we get home safe every day.

“We all work for a great company. AEP was willing to do whatever it took to make sure I was taken care of,” Knight said. “I am forever grateful and indebted to this team and this company. They checked in on me the entire time and I am so thankful. My family is happy, too.”

Knowing your limitations and speaking up is an important part of staying safe. Knight believes one thing that may have helped him was, on the first day they were together, he stood in front of the room and told them about his diabetes. He showed everyone his pump and let them know that if he stared acting strangely then he may need orange juice, a soda or candy to keep his sugar up. The reminder caught his team’s attention, and it helped them make better decisions at a critical moment.

While this story has a happy ending, Knight’s hardwired determination never left. A bitter taste remains. His near-death experience is only part of what he’ll remember from Puerto Rico: He continues to think about a mission unfulfilled.

“Though I went back to work and was feeling better every day, I checked in with team every day while they were there. I missed them very much,” Knight said. “It was very hard for me to leave them behind and not finish my mission. I didn’t want to let my team down.”

Former AEP Vice Chairman John Dolan Passes Away

John Dolan

John E. Dolan, 94, retired vice chairman of Engineering and Construction for AEP, passed away March 17.

A graduate of Bishop Laughlin High School, Dolan enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942 and was selected for officer training and the Air Corps. 1st Lt. Dolan was awarded multiple air medals for service in World War II as a B-17 bomber pilot, completing 24 combat missions in the European Theater with the 8th Air Force.

After the war, he went to Columbia University on the GI Bill and graduated with highest honors. He joined the American Electric Power Service Corporation in 1950 as an engineer and had a distinguished career with the company – finally retiring in 1988 as vice chairman – Engineering and Construction. The John E. Dolan Engineering Laboratory in Groveport, Ohio, bears his name. The lab celebrated 30 years of operation last year.

He was preceded in death earlier this year by his wife of nearly 66 years, Anne Margaret (Youngberg) Dolan. He was a father to eight sons, grandfather to 18 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren. Dolan was born in Woodside, New York, and moved to Largo, Florida, in 1988.

 

Two Employees Receive Technology Transfer Awards

Charles Cunningham, center, received the award on behalf of AEP. He is flanked by EPRI President and Chief Executive Officer Mike Howard, left, and Generation Vice President Tom Alley, right.

(Story by Rachel Hammer)

Two AEP Generation employees have earned prestigious Technology Transfer awards from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the industry’s research and development organization.

Charles Cunningham, chemist senior, and Derrick Westfall, control technician senior, both at Mountaineer Plant, were recognized for their work on developing smart chemistry alarms.

In addition to Cunningham and Westfall, two former employees received recognition. They were Paul Ayres, now retired, and J.D. Ketchem, who transferred to Lightstone.

Their work used EPRI research on cycle chemistry measurements and instrumentation validation. The alarms help minimize the risk of steam and water cycle component damage. They identify specific issues, such as condenser leaks or pH excursions, and warn operators to take immediate action.

Details of the project are available on the EPRI website.

Presented annually, EPRI’s Technology Transfer Awards recognize industry leaders and innovators who help companies deliver safe, affordable, reliable and environmentally responsible electricity through initiative, collaboration and leadership that transform research into results in the utility industry.