Before Cristy Rankin stepped foot into DTE as an employee, she knew it was a place she wanted to be.

For the past six years, Cristy, a former ER nurse, served as the director of emergency management at Beaumont Health. In this capacity, Cristy served as incident commander of Beaumont’s corporate emergency operations center (EOC), where she led a team of 35 employees who managed the entire healthcare system’s policies, direction, data reporting and supply chain throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

As COVID-19 spread throughout the state, Beaumont was caring for a majority of the hospitalized patients in Michigan. Three of the system’s eight hospitals were nearly overwhelmed from the start of the outbreak, caring for almost double their normal capacity of critically ill patients – and its leaders and frontline employees were looking for any possible relief. As was the case with many of Beaumont’s employees, the hours were long and grueling. Beaumont’s Corporate EOC began 24/7 operations on March 9, and Cristy and her team initially worked 21 straight 16-hours days to fight the pandemic. While some members of the Beaumont team didn’t know it yet, our company – and Foundation – were mobilizing; relief was on the way.

The DTE Foundation jumped into action to support first responders and our neighbors in need, investing $21 million in COVID-19 relief efforts in communities to deliver support and critical supplies statewide – including 2 million KN95 masks to first responders.

Intubation boxes made by DTE employees at the Warren Service Center in Detroit

“As much as we wanted to supply all employees within our hospitals with KN95 masks, we had to conserve supplies and limit the higher-level masks to only those staff providing direct care to COVID-19 patients, there just wasn’t enough,” said Cristy. “I can’t express how terrified healthcare workers were at the onset of this due to the unknown and the flood of critically ill patients, and how thankful we were for these masks.”

One of the most notable innovations was the intubation boxes made by a shop in Warren. Joe Musallam, director for Tree Trim in Distribution Operations, brought the idea to DTE to see if our company could make them, and we rose to the challenge. To date, more than 150 intubation boxes have been provided to hospitals across our service territory, including Beaumont, with the DTE Foundation supporting the cost for materials and manufacturing.

“You don’t know how much all of this meant during one of the most terrifying times of my careers,” said Cristy. “We were desperately running low on KN95 masks and several other critical supplies. Our Supply Chain was working with every possible supply connection we had. Seeing donations from large corporations, especially items that were not normally provided to hospitals, provided us vital safety resources, which was everything to us as we were trying to keep our heads above water and provide care to our patients.”

Thanks to an outpouring of support from partners, every night a semi-trailer was needed to pick up items donated to all of Beaumont’s locations and distribute them across the health system’s campuses. Corporations, small businesses and individuals contributed to the cause, allowing our local health care workers to continue to help patients impacted by COVID-19.

“Even within the health care industry where people might become numb to the crisis, the level of loss was devastating because we knew there was a person on the other end of it,” said Cristy. “On behalf of my former employer, we extend our deepest sympathies to anyone at DTE impacted by COVID-19.”

Cristy has since joined DTE as an emergency management specialist with Gas Operations and is excited to support a company that she already knows is committed to be a force for good in the communities where we live and serve.

“It meant so much to see the PPE and intubation boxes that were donated to keep our employees and patients safe,” said Cristy. “I want my new DTE family to know what a positive impact these supplies made on my Beaumont family and on our patients. I always had a positive perception of DTE, but when I told my team that I was changing jobs, not only did I get the normal congratulations, but my former coworkers expressed what a wonderful company I was headed to and how happy they were for me.”

The DTE Foundation leaders continue to look for ways to help our communities recover from COVID-19 in addition to supporting organizations that bring progress and vitality.