The lights flicker once, twice. You wait for it. Boom! A crack of lightning illuminates the night sky as thunder simultaneously rolls over your neighborhood, taking the power with it. Most of us start scrambling for flashlights, candles and the battery operated radio. But across town, a lineman grabs his gear in preparation for what could be a long night of restoring electricity.
I recently visited with a line crew from Cherryland Electric Cooperative. Dustin Ockert, a journeyman lineman, talked about those days and nights when the power goes out. “Leaving my family at home with no power can be stressful. They’re home in the dark without me and I’m out working to get the lights back on.” However, it’s work that Dustin finds enjoyable, despite its risks.
Every day, Dustin and his crew face a number of occupational hazards, including high-voltage contact, confined spaces, and challenging weather conditions, often while working at great heights. Deceptively simple-looking, power lines are connected by a complex arrangement of small parts that crews learn to manipulate while wearing heavy protective gloves. Handling up to 7,200 volts of electricity at any given moment, losing concentration for even a second could result in serious injury. When asked what wind speed would prevent him from taking the bucket up, Dustin confidently replied, “That hasn’t happened yet!”
Fortunately for Dustin and his crew, most days are quiet and filled with routine maintenance work and installations. Safety remains the crew’s first priority, even on normal days. But all concerns for family and safety aside, Dustin loves his job. During an outage, “The world is dark when we get where we’re going and by the time we leave, the lights are back on. That’s the glory of our job.”
If you’re like me you take your power for granted, forgetting the men and women who work in the dark, rain, wind and snow, ensuring that we can turn the lights on each morning. So take a minute, thank your local linemen, and do as Dustin suggests the next time you see his crew pulling up, “Stand back and watch what happens!”
– Excerpt from May Country Lines magazine, written by Jack O’Mally