​By Teresa Waugh

It has been one year since the pandemic upended our lives. It feels like yesterday and it feels like a lifetime. Either way, it is a great time to reflect and appreciate how far we have come.

WAPA employees are masters at operational crises. After all, we have been keeping the lights on for 40 million Americans for around 44 years. However, we used to be inexperienced at sustained crises such as the 2020 pandemic. Not anymore. We went to work and created policies that did not exist.

We collaborated. We analyzed and we adapted. We worked tirelessly, creating procedures and plans to keep our mission-essential employees safe. 

For example, WAPA spearheaded the effort to allow those on the front lines to take vehicles directly from home to worksites. Plus, we practiced sequestering our dispatchers in Sierra Nevada, making us the only power marketing administration to practice such sequestration. 

In many ways we became more efficient, even as we endured multiple hardships. Specifically, we became more efficient in terms of communication.

This past year tested the strength of WAPA’s communication in ways it has never been tested. In Public Affairs, we increased the number of opportunities to meet virtually as an organization and launched routine feedback mechanisms. Our partners in Information Technology ensured we were all set up to work in a virtual environment. Together, we continue to navigate and learn powerful online collaboration platforms.

I am proud to report that, for the most part, the organization’s communication has proven as strong and resilient as the grid itself. 

Of course, there is always room for improvement. In my capacity as WAPA’s chief public affairs officer, I understand the challenges we face right now. That is why we have increased our WAPA-wide meetings, including virtual townhalls with live Q&A sessions. 

I have worked with my staff and the Strategy Office to produce WAPA’s organizationwide well-being surveys and follow up on any issues identified therein. Right now, they seem to indicate a desire for more frequent and brief communication sessions, increased need for plain language and improved measurements and analysis of progress. 

Thank you for your candor and for sharing your thoughts about the issues you face. The input allows us to address those issues and, with my team as well as the Integrated Communications Group, to improve the communication experience throughout WAPA. The improvements we make today can make us a stronger organization into the future, long after the pandemic is a distant memory.

This is an unprecedented situation, and all of us have found ourselves challenged in ways we never could have expected. In spite of this, we have succeeded and continue to succeed every day. 

I cannot thank you enough for upholding WAPA’s dedication to strong and consistent communication between employees, to customers and with each other.

Do not hesitate to share with me your lessons learned. I would love to hear them.  

Note: Waugh is WAPA’s chief public affairs officer.

Last modified on September 12th, 2023