Hundreds of Gas Distribution engineers and other employees came together from across the country last week, to help restore gas supplies to over 5,000 properties in Bedfordshire – drawing praise for their tireless efforts from customers and stakeholders alike.
The major incident started when builders damaged a pipe during work on a new housing estate in the small market town of Ampthill. Adversely impacting thousands of people, including many vulnerable individuals, the incident also affected the villages of Clophill and Maulden.
Within hours, a mobile command unit had been set up by Gas Distribution. Joining them were a host of other organisations, ranging from strategic partners and various agencies – including Central Bedfordshire Council, the Police and the NHS – to a number of voluntary organisations such as Rapid Response Team (who fed everyone for the first few days), the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (who also provided food) and the Bedfordshire Local Emergency Volunteers Executive Committee.
The nature of the incident meant that every property had to have its gas supply manually turned off before the repair work could begin – requiring more than 150 engineers to assist each day. Many other colleagues were also involved both off-site and at the incident centre; answering customer questions and media enquiries at Maulden Village Hall, which acted as the incident room 24-hours a day.
Over the course of the next six days, hundreds of employees helped residents and businesses alike … and not just with the repair work. One of the first tasks was to work with the local authorities to identify vulnerable people to make sure they received the support they needed.
87 year-old Dorothy Parker-Eaton of Clophill was one of the first to be visited to get her gas back. She said: “I cannot thank the Gas Distribution team enough for their kindness. The two gentlemen restoring my pipes were charming, pleasant and undemanding – if they had not revisited my property, I would not have known what to do or where to turn and would be an icicle!”
Gas Distribution set-up a dedicated Facebook page to provide timely updates. A ground-breaking app was also used to speed up the provision of, and access to, information for customers.
The number of positive posts circulating on the Facebook page, praising the gas restoration operation, reflected the general mood; with many customers openly congratulating the teams for their hard work, thoughtfulness and good humour, during what was a challenging situation for repair teams and customers alike.
Many comments echoed those of Lisa King, who said on Facebook: “Bernard and Steve, my heroes! They’ve come all the way from Lancashire and Yorkshire to get us connected again … top chaps, an absolute credit to National Grid.”
Another example of the spirit shown during the week involved a two-year-old girl who lost her teddy bear. Her mother asked the team to post a message on Facebook, asking people to contact her if they found it. The team went one better. They bought the toddler a new teddy and christened it ‘Gas’, to the delight of the girl and her mother.
Commenting on the incident, Chris Train, CEO Gas Distribution, said: “So many of the features of the operation, turning what could have been a very negative situation into a positive one – where the local community worked with us in a positive and constructive manner to restore gas as quickly as possible – underlined the true character of Gas Distribution and its people.”
Teams continued to work through the weekend to restore gas and by Tuesday morning only a handful of properties remained unconnected.
To find out more, watch a short video from James Harrison, Head of Operations, East Emergency, Response & Repair, Gas Distribution Operations. In the video, which was recorded during the incident, James explains what they did to get gas supplies back up and running as quickly as possible.