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Southern Nevada Utilities Prepared For The Worst

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Life would be much different during a quarantine without utilities like running water, electricity and the internet. 

But those essential services still take manpower to continue uninterrupted. Essential workers are still required to operate control rooms and make house calls. 

With stay-at-home orders still in place, how are these people keeping themselves and others safe while keeping the lights on and the tap running? 

Dave Johnson is the deputy general of engineering and operations at the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

“We have a state-of-the-art water treatment and delivery system that we are operating with dedicated professionals to ensure that when the residents of Southern Nevada turn on that tap that water flows,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the SNWA has had a pandemic plan in place for at least the last decade and it has drilled that plan to make sure it works.

Currently, a majority of the water authorities workers are working remotely. However, about 400 employees have to go in to work.

“We’re working very hard to ensure that social distancing is occurring and that we are putting all best practices in place for those people who are working on-site,” he said.

If the pandemic worsens, Johnson said the agency has a plan to maintain service even if a lot of employees become sick.

“We actually have the capability of being able to do almost all of our functions remotely if we get to a point where we’re experiencing significant loss," he said.

The agency also decided several weeks ago that it would not shut off a customer's water for a lack of payment.

Another critical service is electricity.

Shahzad Lateef is the vice president of transmission at NV Energy. He told KNPR's State of Nevada that the utility triggered its emergency plan in January when concerns about the virus in the United States started to grow.

The agency made sure as many employees who could work from home had the ability to do so and now 60 percent of employees are working remotely.

The field employees have been separated into pods of six to eight employees. Lateef said the pods don't interact with each or share tools and equipment.

The agency has activated a control room that is generally used as a backup control room and separated employees who work in the control room into pods as well. Those pods are separate from everyone else.

“By creating those isolations and having those pods available, we’re establishing some protocols that even in the worst-case scenario we can continue to provide essential services to our customers," he said.

In addition to employee protocols to ensure that power keeps flowing during the outbreak, Lateef said the agency double-checked equipment vital to medical services.

“What we have done from the reliability perspective, we have patrolled all of our services that serve critical facilities, like hospitals, and even some of the temporary facilities where some of the testing is being conducted,” he said, "We’re already prepared in case there is an outage due to a weather event or any other event. We are prepared for a restoration plan already in hand so we can effectively restore service much faster than we typically do.”

The power company must be prepared at all times for weather that might knock out lines, but as far as the current situation, Lateef said it is prepared to keep service going.

Dave Johnson, deputy general manager of engineering and operations; Southern Nevada Water Authority; Shahzad Lateef, vice president of transmission, NV Energy 

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Prior to taking on the role of Broadcast Operations Manager in January 2021, Rachel was the senior producer of KNPR's State of Nevada program for 6 years. She helped compile newscasts and provided coverage for and about the people of Southern Nevada, as well as major events such as the October 1 shooting on the Las Vegas strip, protests of racial injustice, elections and more. Rachel graduated with a bachelor's degree of journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University.