Manager’s Message – November 2022

Preventive Measures

Ned Ratterman headshotWhat is the difference between preventive and preventative? Nothing. Both are adjectives meaning “to stop something bad from happening.” When associated with work, the word used isn’t important. It is action that matters.

Teddy Roosevelt said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

While debatable in some instances, it is generally true.

We are at a time in history when electric reliability is in jeopardy. Unbelievable as that sounds, it is hauntingly accurate. We may have little control over decisions that can place us in this position.

Historically, Wasco Electric Cooperative has provided electricity 99.98% of the time. That amounts to members having electricity every moment throughout the year, minus 1.75 hours. In greater terms, that is 1.75 hours off and 8,758.25 hours on.

Your annual reliability includes every minute of the year and deducts the combined total of all minutes your power is off. A lot of these minutes are often spent sleeping. That is excellent reliability, especially given the miles of difficult terrain we serve.

Why is this important public necessity facing an unsure future? It is because of climatic changes, especially a huge increase in wildfires. In response to fires that destroyed huge swaths of forest, leveled thousands of structures and ultimately took the lives of citizens in California, Oregon and many Western states, there was a drastic call for change.

Locally, the Oregon Public Utility Commission requires electric utilities to create and implement preventive vegetation management and associated wildfire mitigation plans to help address the recent past and an uncertain future. Utilities have shifted resources toward a more aggressive role in anticipating when and how to prevent fires and how to respond when they occur.

We have always held fire prevention as a high priority. Now, with longer fire seasons and fires growing to immense sizes on an annual basis, we are doubling down our efforts.

Keep in mind that Wasco Electric is a customer, too. We receive power that can be turned off when the Bonneville Power Administration has decided it is more responsible to de-energize its lines than to risk starting fires or having its energized high voltage lines fall to the ground if its structures burn down.

The discussion is one of risk and safety. It is hard to criticize a utility for turning off power if it is concerned about causing greater harm by keeping the power on. PacifiCorp implemented Public Safety Power Shutoffs in early September that lasted more than 48 hours in the Portland area. Those customers never expected those outages to occur and neither did we. Things are changing quickly.

We are required to consider many decisions during fire season. Help us minimize hazards by supporting our tree-trimming efforts and developing a contingency plan for yourself when a PSPS is necessary.

Be safe,

General Manager
Ned Ratterman