What Are You Doing to Keep the Lights On?


Post By: Margaret Scavotto, JD, CHC

A few weeks ago, a storm came through the St. Louis area. Wind gusts that reached 41 miles per hour snapped telephone poles in half, toppled trees onto power lines and transformers, and left more than 100,000 people without power. We ended up throwing out everything in our fridge. And then everything in the freezer. And then the fridge itself, which did not survive the power surge.

Despite the widespread damage and outages, our power was restored in 48 hours – pretty quickly compared to prior outages. In 2006, a storm left 1.1 million people without power. The outage took a week to fix, and the extreme heat brought 300 Missouri National Guard troops to St. Louis to help with the effort. Several years later, a winter storm left many without power during bitter cold for a week.

And then something changed.

Cities and power companies began a widespread effort to trim trees whose branches loomed over the power lines. Everywhere I turned, I saw tree trimmers hard at work. Years later, I still see this work being done regularly.

Storms still come, and the power still goes out. But it comes back on much sooner! Is it because of the maintenance to lessen storm damage to power lines? Have the storms been less severe? Or is it a combination of both?

Regardless, everyone sleeps a little better during a storm knowing that everything possible has been done to mitigate the damage and keep power systems running. The proactive response to our region’s severe power failures has made these outages far less disruptive.

What is true for bad weather is true for compliance: things will go wrong – and your routine compliance maintenance can minimize the disruption:

  • Routine audits will catch problems sooner, limiting potential repayments and penalties.
  • Ongoing training will help your staff identify non-compliance and encourage them to report it internally – so you can address it.
  • Time spent walking the halls connecting with people will encourage them to pick up the phone and call you when there’s a problem.
  • Thoughtful policy drafting – and updating – will come in handy when staff need guidance to handle difficult scenarios.
  • Regular board updates and education will help your board successfully navigate your organization through compliance challenges that come their way.

What are you doing today to keep the lights on tomorrow?