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City of Tallahassee directs specialized utilities employees to sleep on site, shelter at home

Posted at 6:07 PM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-01 18:07:20-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — While the county is under a stay-at-home order, some employees of the City of Tallahassee are doing the exact opposite.

Reverse quarantine is the City of Tallahassee's way of making sure that there will be workers available during this pandemic. To make that possible, they've turned some of their current facilities into temporary homes.

"it's not the Ritz Carlton, but we improvise, adapt and overcome," said Alan Gale.

Specialized utility workers like Gale are spending their nights sleeping in the office to make sure power stays on for the City's utility customers.

While half of them sleep on site, the others have orders to shelter at home for two weeks at a time. Then, the groups swap.

Rob McGarrah says they've done this before during hurricanes but this situation is a bit different.

"The difference between a hurricane and the COVID-19 crisis is that in a hurricane we don't worry about putting three or four people in a conference room for the night," McGarrah said. "Where as, COVID-19 we didn't want multiple people in a conference room or an office."

The city even spent $30,000 to bring campers to help with CDC guidelines of social distancing.

"I've got nine of my 15 certified operators are prior military so we're used to being gone from our families for months on end," said Gale. "And we are anticipating this to be a couple months as well."

McGarrah says, so far, those in the reverse quarantine situation are responding well.

"If we have an employee that's having challenges, we'll work with them the best that we can," said McGarrah, "but we've got to keep the system operating."

McGarrah says even with only half of their field crews in operation due right now they were able to solve outages from last night's storm in just a matter of hours.