Beyond the Call: How America’s Natural Gas Utility Workers Are Saving Lives 

  • Adam Kay
  • AGA is proud to recognize two People’s Gas utility workers for their separate actions to save human lives in the line of duty during a single two-week period. Military veterans and People’s Gas employees Cesar Arreola-Sandoval and Dominique Westbrook made full use of their extensive training during both life-threatening emergencies. 

    Workers like Cesar Arreola-Sandoval are consistently out in their communities, working in or near homes and businesses. Cesar was outside an apartment building in Chicago’s Garfield Park neighborhood when a tenant collapsed in the front entrance. After sprinting to render aid, he discovered that the man wasn’t breathing, and his heart had stopped. Cesar began CPR within moments of the man’s collapse. 

    “I was in the right place at the right time,” said Cesar. His training kicked in, and while the building’s landlord called 911, Arreola-Sandoval administered CPR until an ambulance arrived. Before leaving for the hospital, the paramedics gave Cesar a thumbs-up, a signal the man had been stabilized. “You saved my life,” the man later told Cesar, who had returned to the building to check on him. 

    The following week, People’s Gas worker Dominique Westbrook arrived at the scene of a serious accident while enroute to a job on Chicago’s southwest side. An SUV had been struck by another vehicle and rolled onto its side, trapping two people inside. Onlookers were attempting to help by rocking the vehicle to try and flip it upright. While the instinct to help was admirable, Dominique realized that the attempt to flip the vehicle was incredibly dangerous for both the passengers and the people outside the vehicle. 

    “The man in the vehicle had his arm hanging out a window. His arm could have been crushed if the vehicle landed the wrong way. “So,” said Dominique, “Sergeant Westbrook kicked in.” 

    Dominique quickly put an end to the attempts to flip the vehicle before climbing inside the SUV to help the trapped passengers climb out, before waiting with them for the paramedics. Both Cesar Arreola-Sandoval and Dominique Westbrook were honored for their heroism at an event cohosted by Peoples Gas and the Gas Workers Local 18007 union.  

    There is a high rate of military veterans in the utility sector workforce. A full eight percent of utility workers are veterans, compared to only 5.3 percent of workers overall. Natural gas utility workers are frequently called upon to act as first responders – something that military training and utility emergency training alike helps to prepare them for. 

    “We conduct training that prepares out team members for very difficult situations,” Peoples Gas President Torrence Hinton said at the event. “We also have a culture of safety. Every day, we reinforce that culture. When we all look out for one another, we are all better off.” 

    “America’s natural gas utility workers are our country’s overlooked first responders.” said AGA Vice President of Safety, Operations, Engineering and Security Christina Sames. “They’re well trained, highly motivated, and committed to public safety. Both Cesar’s and Dominique’s heroic actions are commendable and deserve to be recognized as they join a large and growing group of natural gas utility workers who have saved lives.”