Partners Play Crucial Role in Utility’s Emergency Response

When Columbia, South Carolina, got hit with historic flooding, private contractors, manufacturers and distributors pitched in to lend a helping hand
Partners Play Crucial Role in Utility’s Emergency Response
Prior to the storm event, Xylem Inc. relocated hundreds of its portable Godwin pumps from nearby states to prepare East Coast customers to remove the unwanted floodwaters.

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Faced with a storm event of historic proportions in early October, the City of Columbia, South Carolina, and its dedicated staff members tackled the challenges of preparing for the event, dealt with it as it hit, and responded to the aftermath of the heavy rains and related flood damage.

But another key part of that response came in the form of over 20 private contractors, manufacturers and distributors that stepped in to assist with various emergency response preparations, projects and repairs.

Timely preparation, quick response
Prior to the storm event, Xylem Inc. — a global water technology company — relocated hundreds of its portable Godwin pumps from nearby states to prepare East Coast customers to remove the unwanted floodwaters.

“We answer the phone at any hour to help our customers who are preparing to mitigate storm damage,” says Mike Delzingaro, vice president of sales and branch operations for Xylem’s pump rental business. “We have a lot of experience with tough storms like this. We think of ourselves as the ‘fourth emergency service’ — 24/7 response is part of our culture and commitment to our customers.”

As the rains poured down over the weekend and it became clear that the City of Columbia was getting hit particularly hard, Heyward Incorporated — a company based in Charlotte, North Carolina, that provides products to customers in the power, water and wastewater treatment industries — rearranged schedules to allow several staff members to show up first thing Monday morning ready to assist in whatever way they might be needed.

“What we could help them with more than anything was just the initial evaluation and maybe some emergency repairs on control-type equipment,” says Doug Wilson, sales engineer at Heyward Incorporated. He communicated with the city’s water plant superintendent in order to evaluate what could be done with existing equipment when the canal breached and problems emerged at the raw water pump station.

Extended assistance
Sewage grinders at several of the pump stations had overflowed, and the city sustained some damage to gates and screens at the wastewater treatment plant due to the inrush, flow and heavy material that was flushed down the line, Wilson says. Water had also entered some of the conduits on electric actuators, and a lot of instrumentation and other devices were submerged.

In some cases it was possible to resolve issues just by drying equipment and cleaning it out on the spot. In other cases, Heyward Incorporated staff were able to find ways to make equipment operational on a temporary basis even if it would ultimately need to be rebuilt or replaced at a later date.

Two staff members remained involved throughout the week of the event, and since that time there have been several follow-ups to handle additional replacements and reevaluations, but it was that immediate response that was likely the most critical, Wilson notes.

The extra mile
Is it the type of service Heyward Incorporated typically provides? “No, that’s generally not what we do as our service technicians are used mostly for startups,” Wilson said, “but we’re here to support our customers. They had a problem, so we responded.”

The city seemed to know what they were faced with, he adds, but they didn’t necessarily have all of the tools available because it was such a rare and unusual storm. “Our guys and their guys were there early in the morning and late at night, so it was a lot of full days for everybody,” he said. “You do what you gotta do.”

It’s an example of a public/private partnership at its best, Wilson adds: “Even if it wasn’t a contractual partnership, it’s just people helping people.”


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