Avista enhances operational, community response amid outbreak
SPOKANE, WA -- Avista has implemented additional measures to enhance the Company's operational and community response amid the Coronavirus outbreak.
Building on the incident response measures currently in place, Avista will heighten its approach while maintaining its ability to carry out its core operations. This may include prioritizing certain work and reducing staff completing certain jobs when appropriate, but Avista maintains appropriate staffing for critical business functions and energy delivery.
"As cases of Coronavirus continue to be confirmed across our service area and our government leaders continue to carry out restrictions to stop the spread, we believe it's our responsibility to take further action to preserve the health and safety of our customers, employees, contractors and communities," said Dennis Vermillion, Avista president and CEO. "Building on the steps already taken, we will shift some of the ways we approach our work to respond to the gravity of the situation, while continuing to provide the safe, reliable energy our customers depend on."
"We also acknowledge the impact this situation is having not only on our organization and employees but our greater communities and economies. To alleviate some of the burden this crisis may have on our neighbors, we've stopped all utility disconnects, will honor all of our non-profit and sponsorship commitments and have committed through Avista Foundation to the COVID-19 Eastern Washington Community Response Fund hosted by Innovia Foundation. While our doors may be closed to the public, we're still here, fulfilling our commitments and serving our customers," Vermillion said.
In its heightened response beginning March 20, Avista will take steps to further reduce public interactions for employees. Customers will see employees who must engage in public interaction wearing additional protective equipment such as masks and gloves and inquiring about the health of residents inside homes and businesses before entering. This will be done with respect and out of an abundance of caution to protect our employees and our customers.
To support customers, Avista will focus primarily on necessary or time-sensitive field work, outage response, natural gas calls, compliance work and other projects determined on a case-by-case basis to be appropriate and safe to complete. Planned maintenance that would cause an interruption in electric or natural gas service will be minimized as it is safe to do so. It can be expected that Avista will reduce the amount of work completed during this time and that the time it may take to complete the work will be increased. Avista contract crews will continue work on Avista projects. All work will be approached in a manner that will allow appropriate distance between crews to keep everyone safe. Customers can expect to continue to see Avista trucks out in our communities and may see them more frequently or in different locations as most employees are working or being dispatched remotely. Personnel will continue to respond to calls for the safe, reliable delivery of service.
Work to sustain Avista's business that can be completed safely will continue. This includes most office-based work that can be completed remotely. Customer service representatives continue to be available while working from home. While customers may hear life going on in the background when they call, they can expect the same great level of service. The timeframe for Avista employees required to work from home will extend from March 27 to April 24.
Customers can reach Avista to in a number of ways, including:
If customers find themselves facing financial difficulties, they are encouraged to call Avista at (800) 227-9187.
Avista remains committed to keeping our stakeholders updated, and will communicate any additional changes should the status of this situation shift.
More information about Avista's response to COVID-19 can be found at myavista.com/covid-19.
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