EATON — Eaton native Joseph Kelly spent roughly two months in Puerto Rico to help in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Kelly works for AES, the company which owns Dayton Power and Light and Indianapolis Power and Light, and who is a member of an industry consortium group called EEI (Edison Electric Institute).
EEI is an aggregation of different utilities throughout the United States. According to Kelly, they often get tasked with bringing utilities together for causes.
One program, Mutual Assistance, is put in place to facilitate the sharing of resources in the face of a disaster event. This program works mostly stateside, but after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, EEI contracted to bring their Mutual Assistance program to Puerto Rico.
“AES was going to send down one or two line workers to go down and help with the program, but it didn’t work out like that,” Kelly said. “You can’t really send line workers, you have to send trucks and all sorts of stuff. I don’t know the reason that didn’t materialize. They decided instead to offer up some of the management people to go down there and help coordinate efforts.
“I have experience doing that with DP&L up here and they had a position on their central planning team for a data analyst. It was second nature to me and they thought I would be a good fit. Originally, it was me and one other guy. Then, we were both supposed to only be down there for three or four weeks, but they extended me for another five or six weeks after that. The other guy went back home, but they sent someone to replace him. There were three of us down there, but only two at a time.”
He added, he had no expectations when he left to go to Puerto Rico. He had never been to the island before and did not know what his role would end up being.
“I didn’t know who I would be working for or what I would be doing at all,” he said. “When I got down there, I was in a data analyst position. I was reporting to the Chief Planner. Him and one other guy were the chief planners for the whole restoration for the distribution part of it. So, I reported directly to those two guys. At the beginning, I was mostly getting information for them.
“It was crazy. I’m uncertain what the normal operation is, but when I got down there I was in awe of how much devastation there was. It looked bad, but I couldn’t tell what was just hurricane damage and what was poverty. Going down there and getting the opportunity to help people in need is always a great experience.
“It is second nature for anyone who works in the power utility business. It is kind of a curve ball to your normal day and then there’s a storm and its a stressful environment, but you know you’re helping people out. It sucks when it happens, but it is also very fulfilling because you know you’re helping people.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH