As people wait for hurricanes, thunderstorms, or ice storms to pass, there are other people who will be on the starting block, eager to get outside: Utility linemen and women.
As storms approach and pass utilities are already assessing risk. How much damage will be caused, how many crews will be needed, and exactly where will they be needed? To be sure, many people support lineworkers – scouts who go out and assess damage so crews can get into the field with the right equipment and supplies; tree crews that clear the path so wires and poles may be replaced; warehouse and procurement staff make sure the materials are at the ready; staging area teams make sure line crews are fed, housed and briefed every day; call center teams take information from customers and get that to crews in the field. Crew chiefs will spread the word about the timing to report to work. Crews will be stocking up their trucks. Those off-shift will make sure they get rest – there are long hours ahead.
Lineworkers prepare, then must wait because crews can’t get up in the air to work when the winds are roaring after a storm. They’ll have to wait until the winds die down enough so it’s safe to work. When lineworkers do get out there, they’ll be working steady, too – 18 hours on, 6 off is common after big storms like hurricanes – until customers are back in service.
Lineworkers are special people who make our lives easier in several ways. What traits are universal in these professionals?
Lineworkers have safety as the top priority. Utility workers must manage varied possible hazards. According to OSHA: High-voltage, working at heights, sometimes working in confined spaces, bad weather, and physical work issues like welding and cutting. (Reference)
Lineworkers are brave. They are out there in good times, and really bad times. It is tough. “Utility line work is in the top 10 of the most dangerous jobs in America.” (T&D World) They take their work seriously.
Lineworkers are problem-solvers. They venture into a tangle of broken pieces and make the parts work together again. In the process, they use not just their physical skills, but a familiarity of mathematics, electrical knowledge, and mechanics. They work as individuals as part of a large team with the goal of safely restoring power.
Lineworkers are members of our communities. Each person we see on a pole or in a truck often presents several people, actually. A spouse or significant other, maybe children, parents. They represent people involved in schools, churches, theater, Scouts, Little League… Lineworkers, by their nature, contribute to our overall quality of life.
A person who goes into lineman work must have a special DNA to even apply. These high standards are also drilled into lineworker students. Caldwell Community and Technical Institute, Hudson, NC, is a premier trainer of lineworkers. A coordinator and instructor for the Electrical Lineman Program had told me this about educating lineworkers. “We teach our students from day one that their own personal safety and the safety of their crew is paramount. Our students are taught that the goal is not individual success but rather the success of the entire class.”
It is a field of work looking for good people. One utility said this about being a lineworker: “Energy companies plan to hire lineworkers to fill a shortage that’s been building across the U.S. as the baby boom generation retires. Lineworkers are in the field daily constructing, maintaining and restoring equipment to ensure reliable energy service. It’s a demanding job that has its rewards, financially and in the accomplishment that comes from helping return life to normal after storms, accidents and natural disasters.”
For all of us, it is reassuring to see lineworkers out at work after a storm. It is a sense that getting back to normal has started. So, thank a lineworker.
Feature image from Duke Energy Media Gallery.