By David Kligman
NAPA — Gas crew foreman Steve Bittner is used to pressure situations. So when a 6.0 magnitude earthquake jolted him awake early Sunday in Napa, he took action.
The 29-year PG&E employee made sure his family was safe and cleaned up a huge mess in his house — fallen pictures, broken wine glasses and bottles of olive oil and honey.
“It was like a bunch of raccoons came in there and destroyed the house,” Bittner said. “It was bad.”
After calming his family, he checked on his elderly neighbors and then immediately reported to work. He spent the next 14 hours responding to customer calls.
“It just comes natural,” Bittner said. “You see people hurting and you go help them.”
PG&E mobilized quickly to help the community. A staging area was set up at the local airport. Crews came from all over PG&E’s service area. And in little more than 24 hours, power was restored to 70,000 residents.
Among those who came in from out of town was Marysville troubleman Jim Stephenson. He called dispatchers when he found out about the quake and told them he was available to help.
He worked from 7 a.m. until 2:30 the next morning. He says customers were thrilled to see him and they offered him water, coffee and soft drinks.
“I work for the customer,” Stephenson said. “PG&E pays me but they’re my customers. So if they’re inconvenienced then I might as well be also.”
The public was impressed with the response. Customers praised PG&E on social media: “Thank you for all you do.” “You guys are the best.” “Thank you for working around the clock and getting our power back.”
Laurie Giammona, vice president of customer service, credited the many men and women of PG&E who quickly responded. And why was the response so successful?
“I think it’s because we have phenomenal employees,” Giammona said. “Employees just came in on their own accord after the earthquake hit and we were able to completely mobilize our crews, bring in crews from other areas.”
Customer Care employees from the Bay Area volunteered to travel to Napa. On Monday (Aug. 25), they canvassed downtown Napa to remind businesses and residences to contact PG&E with any concerns or questions.
Customer relationship managers Jackie Denzler and Waylon Pon met with customer David Enright whose house near downtown Napa was damaged. The customer said he appreciates PG&E’s support.
“I’ve been seeing them around here since everything happened,” Enright said. “I’ve been seeing them driving around and checking on everything, which I appreciate and I think is good. It makes me feel safer.”
Meanwhile, crews used Picarro gas technology to check for gas leaks. And in a neighborhood a few miles away, Cupertino gas service representative Josh Eaton restored service to residents who had turned off their gas following the quake. He began his work day 12 hours earlier.
“This is my first real emergency with the company and I feel really proud to be part of the company,” Eaton said.
Email David Kligman at David.Kligman@pge.com.