When Jenelle Godges was in high school, she worked as a lifeguard, so looking out for the safety of others has become second nature for her.
One Sunday, while driving home after looking at wedding venues with her fiancé, Godges witnessed something that had her life-safety instincts kick in.
She saw what initially appeared to be a car that drove off the freeway, hitting a utility pole. After exiting the freeway she and her fiancé noticed the car had actually been driving on a street parallel to the freeway, and had hit a utility pole. With the crushed car coming to a stop, Godges noticed the utility pole had been severed in half and a downed power line now crossed the street, resting on a chain link fence.
“I wasn’t going to let someone lose their life or come into contact with our lines on my watch,” she said. “I felt I was most knowledgeable about the situation and decided to stop and help.”
Godges told bystanders who were getting out of their vehicles to help the victim to stay away from the downed power lines. Her fiancé and others helped look for other passengers and get the driver out of the crushed, burning car just before it became fully engulfed in flames.
At the same time, Godges put on her bright yellow jacket and SCE hard hat and stood safely near the downed power lines to keep vehicles and pedestrians away. She asked people who had stopped to help not to let anyone through unless it was police or fire officials.
“There were some people pretty upset because I wouldn't just let them pass by, but it was worth it because we were able to control the scene during a very hectic time and prevent further injuries,” she said.
About 10 minutes later, the authorities arrived and took control of the situation after Godges warned them about the downed lines, which they could not see as they approached the scene. She also alerted her Local Public Affairs colleagues and other SCE departments about the incident along the Interstate 15 freeway in Riverside County near the city of Corona.
Godges was honored on Dec. 9 for her actions when SCE President Ron Litzinger presented her with the J.K. Horton Humanitarian Award at the Local Public Affairs Year-End Offsite in Costa Mesa.
Veronica Gutierrez, vice president of Local Public Affairs, praised Godges for her courage and self-sacrifice.
“Jenelle’s actions demonstrated Edison’s core values and showed her true commitment to safety,” Gutierrez said.
Godges, who was completely surprised about getting the award, said it is part of her department’s training to be aware of their surroundings and pay attention to infrastructure.
“I never want to be in a position where something happened to my family, friends or me and no one took the time to stop and help,” she said.
Cody Tubbs, who as Godges’ region director when the incident occurred on June 30 nominated her for the award, praised her for going above and beyond to help her community.
“She took a situation that was unsafe and made it safer,” said Tubbs, who is now a director of Public Affairs for Edison International. “It sets an example for all of us.”
This summer’s event wasn’t the first time Godges dealt with a difficult safety situation while working at the company. Early in her career, in the spring of 2011, Godges was called to the scene when a window washer died after coming into contact with an overhead distribution line. In September, she served as the liaison for local officials and conducted media interviews when a contract worker died following an explosion at a vault in Huntington Beach. She assisted police and fire personnel in keeping onlookers at bay and allowing friends and co-workers to pay condolences to the victim.
“Safety is so important in everything we do,” Godges said. “I’m glad I was able to help during these difficult situations.”