Baton Rouge (December 22, 2020) – When Hurricane Laura made landfall on August 27, 2020, the Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives (ALEC) sprang into action providing much needed aid to our member Louisiana electric cooperatives. Staff was divided up into task forces from coordinating mutual-aid efforts and contractors, running much needed supplies to devastated areas, managing the hurricane relief fund to crisis communications. “We knew our cooperatives were in great need and we had to act quickly to supply them with some relief,” said ALEC CEO Jeff Arnold. “There were so many people willing to help it was overwhelming at first.”
When it came to crisis communications, ALEC assessed the needs of our cooperatives for communication assistance noting some cooperatives had full-time communication staff while others did not. “Jeff Davis Electric Cooperative (JDEC) made the request to have an ALEC communicator with boots on the ground in their service territory during recovery efforts,” said Addie Armato, Director of Member Engagement . With that request Armato knew she would have to rely on a team of people to help ALEC effectively assists all the Louisiana member electric cooperatives.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) Stephen Bell was the first to reach out to help. Bell worked under the guidance of NRECA’s Vice President of Communications Scott Peterson and along with the NRECA communications team to provide ALEC and our cooperatives with template press releases, media guidance, and support.
At the beginning of 2020, ALEC partnered with Pioneer Utility Resources (PUR) to produce the Louisiana Country and Along These Lines statewide magazines. Following the storm PUR also came to Louisiana’s assistance offering press release templates and free-lance writers. They brought in their ARC Media team to assist with social media messaging.
Armato worked closely with all affected electric cooperatives on crisis communications. “However, after 17 days of working in Lake Charles alongside restoration crews it became apparent to ALEC, Addie was needed back in Baton Rouge to continue to assist all our Louisiana cooperatives that were continuing to be hit by multiple hurricanes and tropical storms,” said Jeff Arnold. That is when a cavalry of communicators were lined up to provide some relief efforts in Lake Charles. Armato recruited Chad Simon with Sam Houston Electric in Texas, Nell McCauley in Kentucky, and Natalie Smith with NextEra Energy in Florida to assists with crisis communications.
“Everyone did a phenomenal job. I am proud I had the opportunity to work along side these communicators and partners through some of the toughest challenges Louisiana has ever faced,” said Armato. “We will never be able to show our true appreciation for what they did for us.”
During the 2020 hurricane season, Louisiana electric cooperatives faced Tropical Storms Cristobal and Zeta. Hurricanes Marco, Laura, Sally, Beta, and Delta. Every Louisiana electric cooperative was affected by a tropical storm or hurricane this past hurricane season. ALEC would again like to thank everyone that came to our aid.