Dave Reaves, Business Manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1547. (Photo by Chris Arend, Courtesy of IBEW Local 1547)
Let’s be real. Staying-in-place and hunkering-down is not as easy as many of us thought it would be, but a few things do make it bearable.
Quarantined with kids? Tech workers are making sure schoolwork, videos and books can be downloaded and that electricity, gas and water is flowing so meals can be prepared.
Working from home? Communication workers are still on the job making sure your internet stays on so you can connect to your team.
Staffing a store, clinic, piece of the supply chain or other critical infrastructure? Electricity is keeping the vital equipment we need in hospitals, businesses, and infrastructure powered.
No matter what we are doing, this pandemic has proven how heavily we rely on technology and utilities for work, education, communication and entertainment, and how essential and critical it is to have highly trained professionals working to keep us safe and comfortable.
The women and men who make up the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) represent some of the workers keeping things running right now so medical facilities can remain open and utilities running smoothly.
Essential and mission critical workers include hospital technicians, warehouse workers, power linemen, electricians, power plant workers and technicians as well as communications workers like telephone linemen, installation and repair workers, telephone operators, central office technicians, cable maintenance workers, and fiber optic specialists, mechanics, line clearance tree trimmers and heavy equipment operators.
The skilled workers and the companies who employ them to make all these things work deserve our thanks and our support over the long haul. This is especially true because they stand ready to deploy in whatever weather to do whatever it takes to safely make things work so our lives are not disrupted for long durations. More than the inconvenience it might cause most of us when there are downed lines or slow internet, reliable energy and fast repairs are a matter of life and death as hospitals work to treat people for viral infections on top of serving patients sick from other ailments.
Utility and construction companies all along Alaska’s Railbelt and statewide made plans to quickly step up the safety protocols in order to preserve the people power it takes to maintain or fix things in an emergency. Many of these jobs require a crew, and if people get sick from COVID-19, or any other virus, replacements need to be properly trained and nearby to get the job done quickly.
Luckily, due to a robust apprenticeship program and workers that live in Alaska, we can make this happen. Not only that, we employ Alaskans who are here and know our communities, the terrain and the climate, and who understand our weather and do not need to be quarantined for 14 days due to traveling from outside of Alaska during this pandemic.
This emergency has highlighted the value of usually commonplace things such as cleaning products, face masks, video communication and ventilators. It also highlights the value of all kinds of jobs and the people who do them. We look forward to a day soon when the importance of a trained, Alaska-based workforce is fully appreciated and when going back to our regular job sites will be the new normal. Stay safe out there everyone.
Dave Reaves is the Business Manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1547, which represents more than 4,000 electrical, communications, construction, government and health care workers across the state of Alaska.