#HoustonStrong – Supporting Our Customers and Communities, Before and After Harvey
by Elizabeth Killinger
NRG Power Perspectives | Executive Blog
As the nation watched Hurricane Harvey escalate into a devastating storm, my immediate focus was on a handful of very important things – protecting my family, the safety of NRG employees and our customers and the continuity of our retail electricity business in Texas.
As Harvey hit Gulf Coast communities, I flashed back to the 2008 aftermath of Hurricane Ike, appreciating how far we’ve come with our storm preparations. Like many Houstonians, back then, I went weeks without power – virtually running our retail operations from my car so I could charge my laptop and phones as I worked. That experience inspired me to lead our business to deliver portable power solutions on a large scale – which is now an exciting part of our retail strategy. Today, NRG’s portable power offerings provided a critical service for both first responders and the tens of thousands that were displaced and living in shelters, who needed to use their phones to seek assistance and keep family and friends informed.
Unlike Ike, Harvey inflicted wide-spread flood damage across the city. I volunteered at a children’s event at a church a few days after the storm hit. I was struck by how children proudly raised their hands when asked if their families were impacted by the storm. And then, I was speechless when the children were asked to stand up if someone in their family was impacted by flooding. All but three children stood up. At that moment, it sunk in for me that few families in Houston were spared. It also reinforced how important it was for the NRG family to reach even further to help our neighbors on this road to recovery.
At NRG Retail including Reliant, our customer care centers are prepared for situations like Harvey, but I continue to be impressed with our employees who went – and continue to go – above and beyond for our customers. Many of our employees performed heroically, even when faced with flooding and setbacks at their own homes.
While NRG and its retail electric providers don’t maintain the poles and wires that bring power into homes, we do serve as a primary point of contact for many people when they have an electricity issue. That’s why during major storms we:
- Locate customer care representatives in different geographies so we can route calls to non-impacted areas and continue to help our customers.
- Have representatives who telecommute.
- Handle inbound calls as well as chats and emails.
- Quickly update our website and social media to alert customers of important information, such as longer than normal wait times.
- Make outbound calls to impacted customers to ensure they are safe and reassure them they are not subject to disconnection or late fees.
- Are available 24/7.
Beyond business continuity, we support our community in a hands-on way. Once the rain stopped, our employees in Houston jumped into action because we knew first responders and those who were displaced both needed power to stay connected whether it was to help them get to safety or to contact friends and family members. Whether reaching out to coworkers who were affected or volunteering at shelters, our employees became the hands and feet in our community at a time when it was needed most. And, their ranks included NRG employees beyond Houston, from Utah, Dallas, Austin, Philadelphia and other areas.
We provided free portable power with NRG Go stations for Houston shelter residents. We deployed 24 stations across the city, and within the first few days, dispensed nearly 600 chargers. We also positioned NRG Go stations at first responder base camps around town, such as Texas Taskforce 1 and Operation BBQ.
Groups of employees volunteered far and wide to share additional portable power products across Houston, Victoria and Rockport. In the first two weeks post-Harvey, we distributed over 10,000 portable solar-powered generators, batteries and lights to people cleaning up their destroyed homes, those with medical needs, first responders and guests/volunteers at shelters.
Each day I am blessed to hear the stories – some very sad but many uplifting – of what our employees, their friends and family members experienced during this trying time. Despite difficulties, employees volunteered for thousands of hours at phone banks, shelters, schools and churches – even when some of them lost their own homes and cars.
I can’t believe it has been a month since Harvey changed Houston forever, but I’m confident our city will emerge even stronger. I am honored to lead a community-focused company that supports the city it calls home.
We are #HoustonStrong.