On Thursday, September 8, 2011 a major power outage occurred that affected much of California and Arizona around 3:30 p.m. Electricity wouldn’t come back on in San Diego until early Friday morning, around 1:15 a.m. This meant San Diego, the nation’s eighth-largest city, was in the dark for nearly 10 hours, affecting more than 1.5 million residents.
When the lights went out, the Pacific Area executive team, San Diego District Leadership Team and employees went into action. San Diego District Manager Dallas Keck and Senior Plant Manager Larry Belair immediately alerted the District’s Emergency Management Team to assess the team’s availability, their roles and responsibilities and how quickly they could restore operations. Because all power was down, there was no access to office telephone lines, with only limited cell phone activity.
Keck and Belair worked closely with the Pacific Area Emergency Management Team and made contact with surrounding districts that were not affected, including the LA P&DC and San Bernardino P&DC which provided generators and temporary lighting. Once the equipment was set up on the San Diego facility docks, employees were mobilized into action, manually processing all the mail they could under the cloak of darkness.
Throughout the power outage, hourly situational briefings were given to employees to keep them informed and engaged. APWU and Mail Handlers Union representatives were on site and gave their support, along with EAP. In addition, management worked in conjunction with a local vendor to secure emergency water and snacks. The goal was to ensure employee safety while at the same time minimizing operational disruption to meet service commitment standards. Mail was dispatched to all stations and branches Friday morning.
“Extraordinary effort was displayed by everyone during this situation,” said Belair. “I was really impressed with how employees reported to work ready to go, demonstrating their emergency preparedness skills and ensuring the continuity of operations in getting the mail processed and delivered.”
“Over the course of my career I have been involved in managing many difficult situations,” said Keck, “but I’ve got to say our employees came through and did the best job I’ve seen in recovering during a crisis.”