Thursday, May 24, 2012

Vacationing employee at right place, right time to assist after natural gas explosion

Mark Lochner, one of our senior safety consultants who works out of our Marshfield Gas Office, was visiting his sister in Waukee, Iowa, near Des Moines, when an explosion on May 22 caused the house across the street to lift off its foundation and burst into flames.

Before emergency rescue crews could respond, Lochner ran to his sister’s garage, grabbed a crescent wrench and cut off the natural gas supply at the meter. His quick response reduced the risk of further explosions or a larger fire. Lochner's decisive action allowed police to enter the building and rescue an elderly woman and her dog.

News coverage from TV13 Des Moines 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Forestry workers rescue, relocate owls

Sometimes solutions to problems aren't what you expect. Such was the case recently when the Wildlife in Need Center (WINC) of Oconomowoc contacted us for help.

WINC needed help getting to a great horned owl's nest in a tall oak tree in New Berlin. A wind storm blew one of two owlets (baby owls) out of the nest, and some of the nest came down with the bird.

The homeowners noticed the owlet on the ground and called WINC. WINC looked into placing the owlet back into the nest, but it was too difficult for their volunteers to climb the tree. WINC staff wanted to move the nest and the pair of owlets to a lower height so they could monitor the fallen owlet’s progress and reunite it with its sibling.

At first, a bucket truck was thought to be the answer for the rescue, and WINC gave us a call. However, when our operations supervisor from Delafield Service Center visited the site, the supervisor knew immediately that a heavy bucket truck would break up the aging asphalt driveway due to the wet conditions and softened soil beneath the surface. So, forestry crews stepped in. Two employees from Asplundh, our forestry contractor, climbed the tree and installed a new wicker laundry basket, held in place with bungee cords. They placed both owlets in the nest for the adult owls to raise.

“It’s great to have help in cases like these that are unsafe for our staff to free climb,” said Mandy Feavel, wildlife rehabilitator at WINC.

And we were glad to help.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Phantom energy users proliferate

Nearly everyone has more appliances, more rechargers and more electronics than ever. That means more phantom energy users. About 10 percent of your power use could be attributed to things you aren’t using.

The average home has about 40 phantom energy users: TVs, stereos, modems, sound bars, DVD players, game consoles, satellite dishes, cable boxes, automatic coffee makers and more. And then there are chargers used for shavers, laptops, tablets, cameras, cell phones, cordless power tools, digital music players and more. Even when not charging anything, they continue to use power when plugged in.

To save power (and money), you should unplug the devices or control them with a power strip or timer. Controlling the power to such devices could save the equivalent of a month of free electricity each year.

You can find the primary phantom users by plugging an appliance or device into an energy monitor. Search online or check local hardware stores to find models starting as low as $25. You plug the monitor between a device and outlet to check the reading for energy use when the device is “off.”

Remember that all appliances and electronics with remote control use standby power to receive commands from the remote. Others use standby power to keep programming and settings in place and provide “instant” on. But the convenience comes at a price. As a consumer, you need to decide if it’s worth it.

If you want to get rid of phantom energy users, locate and control them.

More money-saving tips

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Veterans return from Honor Flight sponsored by Wisconsin Energy Foundation

Every Stars and Stripes Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., for World War II veterans is special for those who get to visit their memorial. The flight on April 28 for 112 veterans also was special for our company because it was sponsored by the Wisconsin Energy Foundation and attended by two of our executives.

The executives, who were privileged to join the flight as guardians, were Kevin Fletcher, senior vice president – customer operations, and Charles Matthews, senior vice president – wholesale energy and fuels. 

Matthews described the veterans this way: “Sacrifice. Being surrounded by these veterans and hearing their firsthand accounts of where they served, you fully understand what those guys gave during the war. Throughout the day, you could see the memories on their faces.”

Honor Flight participants included, left to right,
Kevin Fletcher; Harvey Kurz, WWII veteran
and retired employee of Wisconsin Gas Co.;
and Charles Matthews.
Fletcher agreed: “Bob Cutter, a 92-year-old Marine, told me that this was the most memorable day of his life. The most impressive sight for me that day was when these veterans would shake hands with younger people who had lined the aisles in airports and at the memorials. They were keeping the memory alive through this contact. As a relatively new employee of We Energies, I am extremely proud of my company. It was an honor to participate.”

Matthews and Fletcher both said that during orientation to serve as a guardian, they were told to expect to hear stories from the veterans – stories that the veterans had never shared with their families. They heard stories of brave men who were in their late teens or early 20s engaged in conflict and dealing with the aftermath of battles. 

Wisconsin Energy Foundation has been a Stars and Stripes Honor Flight sponsor from the beginning. Looking ahead, the foundation is sponsoring the Field of Honor event Aug. 11 at Miller Park in Milwaukee. Highlights of the event include:

The Pillars of Honor. This display is the architect’s model that was crafted for the WWII memorial in Washington, D.C. The model is headed to the Smithsonian after it visits Milwaukee.

Honor Flight documentary. The premiere of a documentary about the Stars and Stripes Honor Flights will be shown on the stadium video scoreboard.

The public is invited to attend The Field of Honor: A Salute to the Greatest Generation. Tickets are $11 (plus a service charge) and may be purchased through the Milwaukee Brewers website, which also includes a schedule of events for the day. Proceeds support future Honor Flights. So far, more than 1,900 veterans from southeast Wisconsin have participated in the program since it began in 2008. The next flight is scheduled June 2.