Last summer, a downed wire was reported in Garden City. DTE’s first responders went out with barrier tape and door hangers to corner off the hazard and notify the surrounding businesses and residences. The situation did not meet “stand by” criteria so they left. Problem solved, or so they thought.

What the first responders didn’t realize was this downed wire was outside the Garden City Fire Department. And it was drastically hindering their fire trucks from responding to emergencies.

They followed the correct process but misunderstood the urgency that was needed. It took three days to finally take care of the downed wire. This was unacceptable for customers.

DTE CEO Jerry Norcia’s message to employees has been clear. Sometimes processes get in the way of doing what’s best for customers. When we find a gap in a process, we need to take a step back, work together to fix the problem and close the gaps in pursuit of putting Purpose over process to provide better service to customers.

In this case, a cross-functional team of DTE employees worked together to develop a new process, which may help to save lives in the future.

“When we learned that we were impacting the Garden City Fire and Police Department’s ability to do their job, we decided to do a little more research to find out how we could make this situation better for the community,” said Russel Pogats, manager, Emergency Preparedness and Storm at DTE. “We ended up partnering with our Corporate and Government Affairs team, our regional managers and local fire and police departments to figure this out and create a new process.”

Now emergency personnel have a direct line to call DTE in severe situations. This assures that the urgency is understood, and we’re able to dispatch a crew to the emergency location as soon as possible. In return, firefighters are freed up faster to respond to other calls for assistance.

The team’s work also improved communication between fire chiefs, DTE’s EPS team and regional managers, and yielded better results. This has never been more evident than the recent catastrophic storm.

During the storm, Garden City Fire Chief Catherine Harman could not get through on the dedicated line due to the extremely high call volume. Russel Pogats and Barbara Rykwalder, DTE’s Wayne County regional manager, worked directly with her and central dispatch to record the downed wire locations and get crews to those locations immediately.

Barbara also sent daily text messages to key community officials, whose communities were affected by the storm, to share DTE’s communications updates. This allowed them to be posted to city websites to keep residents informed on the outages and our restoration efforts.

“I enjoy my job as regional manager because it allows me the opportunity to make a difference each day,” Rykwalder said. “I especially value collaborating with my leaders, co-workers, and all of DTE’s dedicated employees, who give 110 percent effort every day to creatively solve issues in the communities we serve.”

Through this collaboration, DTE successfully implemented a new process that emphasizes Purpose and better serves customers. DTE is also working with the Bureau of Fire Service to develop an electrical safety class for firefighters.

The work has not gone unnoticed. Garden City Fire Chief Harman even wrote a letter thanking DTE’s teams for their efforts.

“On behalf of the entire community of Garden City, I want to express our deepest gratitude for DTE’s efforts to safely restore 33 downed power lines in our city throughout the month of July,” Chief Harman said. “Thank you for partnering with us to keep Garden City safe.”