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For National Grid 'Meet the people keeping our homes cosy this Christmas' story

Meet the people keeping our homes cosy this Christmas

While many of us will be enjoying a well-earned break over the Christmas holidays, our dedicated colleagues will be working behind-the-scenes to ensure our lights keep twinkling and our homes stay warm and cosy. In the first of our festive series, meet three workers who’ll be on shift this Christmas Day.

I volunteer to work on Christmas Day so my co-workers with younger children don’t have to
 
Photo of National Grid US Emergency Response Unit Technician Tina Forbes

Tina Forbes is an Emergency Response Unit Technician in Gas Field Ops in Boston, Massachusetts. Prior to 2009, she worked in the call centre.

I actually choose to work over the holiday and I have done for quite a few years. When I worked in the call center my children were younger and I didn’t have enough seniority to get holidays off sometimes. I know how awful that felt, so now I work so my co-workers with younger children, or those who live much farther away, don’t have to come to work.

Over the holidays we’ll be covering gas leaks and other gas related emergencies with our standard emergency operating procedures. I’ll be working from 8am to 4pm on Christmas Day.

It’s important to have emergency personnel on hand as most of our customers can’t get a plumber or repairman to answer the phone, let alone pay them a visit on a holiday. There’s never a good time to have a gas emergency, but I think frustrations are doubled during the holidays.

Our customers are always relieved when we show up free of charge. I remember one woman saying her faith in humanity was restored when we showed up late one Christmas night, fixed her problem and didn’t hand her a bill.

Normally I spend Christmas with my large extended family and my two adult sons, but that won’t be happening this year due to COVID restrictions. My family usually delays the celebrations and dinner until I’m off work, but you can’t always plan for emergencies so sometimes I arrive later.

This will be the 10th Christmas I’ve worked

Keith Henbest has worked at our Grain LNG Terminal as a Shift Engineer for 25 years. Grain is the largest liquified natural gas terminal in Europe and the eighth largest in the world. Ensuring our homes and businesses are warm through the winter means the Thames estuary plant never closes and is manned 24/7.

We have a ship arriving on Christmas Day and I’m working a 12-hour day. Boxing Day is a 12-hour day as well. It’s just my turn this year.

This will be the 10th Christmas I’ve worked. My team is a great bunch, although we have had to split into two to reduce contact due to COVID restrictions. We’ll have a few snacks and chocolates.

My role involves overseeing the safe, efficient operation of the plant and ship unloading, checking work permits are correct and road tankers are filled.

Hopefully people can enjoy this Christmas, as it’s been a terrible year for a lot of people. I’m going to leave before my wife and kids are up – there doesn’t seem to be any appetite for them to get up at 5am to see me off!

I’ll see them all when I get back home at 7pm, for a turkey sandwich and a tipple. Not too much though, as I’m up at 5:30am the next morning for work again.”

My partner is a nurse and we’ll both be working on Christmas Day
 
Photo of National Grid Shift Officer Matt Tracey at Bacton Gas Terminal

Matt Tracey is a Shift Officer at our Bacton Gas Terminal in Norfolk. He’s worked at National Grid for 12 years, starting as a mechanical apprentice at Bacton and returning in 2018 to his current role, managing the gas flow in and out of the terminal.

Bacton hasn’t been ‘offline’ since the day it opened in 1968 and on Christmas Day we expect gas demand to be high.

I’ll be working 6:30am to 6:30pm on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and then the following three night shifts. It’s just how the rota falls.

I worked Christmas Day last year too. It’s ok with me, as I don’t have a young family at home like many in our team. Last year my line manager came to site for a cup of tea and biscuits on Christmas morning.

My partner Jessica and I will both be working on Christmas Day. We’ll open presents and have some drinks and buffet food when we get home in the evening, and we’ll see my mum on Boxing Day before our night shifts start.”

Meet more of our dedicated Christmas workers