Rain or shine, night or day, winter or summer, Alabama Power line workers are always the first on the job when the lights go out.
These intrepid employees answer the call, even when that means working after hours, on weekends or holidays. And during storm situations, they leave home and family and travel long distances, often to other states, to restore power.
In 2018 alone, more than 2,000 company and contract workers left their home territory to restore service following eight major storms.
“When I think about the value of a lineman to our company and the customer, I think about the fundamentals,” said Scott Moore, Power Delivery senior vice president at Alabama Power. “Our customers expect the lights to come on every time they flip the switch, but little do they know there is a vast machine that must operate perfectly to allow that simple function to be successful. Linemen and the craft, knowledge and skills they possess are the foundation on which we serve those customers. They construct, operate and maintain the critical infrastructure that is the foundation of the power delivery business – the electricity grid.”
Moore said the company’s approximately 1,300 line workers are especially “onstage” in the wake of severe weather events such as hurricanes, tornadoes and ice storms.
Among the storms that sent company crews and contractors into action last year was a deadly EF-3 tornado that hit east Alabama in March, causing significant damage at Jacksonville State University. They also responded following a rare “derecho” storm in June that resulted in 230,000 outages across Alabama and Hurricane Michael, a monster storm that put more than 2 million customers in multiple states in the dark and caused billions in damages.
In addition to helping their neighbors in nearby states, crews were sent as far away as Puerto Rico, where they spent 76 days assisting with restoration efforts after Hurricane Maria, which resulted in the worse damage ever recorded in the island’s history. Thus far in 2019, crews have already restored service following four major storms, including deadly tornadoes that ripped through Lee County and surrounding areas on March 3.
“Our linemen are there on the front lines during these difficult times to help re-establish a sense of normalcy,” Moore said. “Our customers can usually begin to rebuild their lives once they get their electricity restored.”
Since its founding more than a century ago, Alabama Power line workers have been the face of the company.
Their primary job, which is to maintain and operate the power system, remains unchanged, said Labor Relations Manager Avery Pruitt. But thanks to advanced technology, such as automated switching and smart meters, and improved personal protection equipment (PPE), linemen can work more safely and efficiently.
“I’m not saying the job is easier or less dangerous,” Pruitt said. “But today’s technology allows linemen to work smarter rather than harder, while better PPE and stricter rules and regulations keep them safer.”
Pruitt said everyone is not cut out to work around power lines. It requires a “unique skill set” and a certain physical and mental stamina.
“People underestimate the job of a lineman and take the things they do for granted,” Avery said. “But the work they do nobody else but them can do. They are the only ones who can put up the wire, set the poles and get the lights back on after storms.”
In the weeks leading to this year’s celebration on June 3, Alabama NewsCenter will feature line workers from the Alabama Power’s six divisions who have gone the extra mile both on and off the job. They include Scott Shultz, Transmission lineman, Birmingham Division; Heith Hase, Power Delivery lineman, Eastern Division; Broderick Smith, field service representative, Southern Division; Andi Alford, cable splicer, Mobile Division; Chris Jackson, Transmission lineman, Southeast Division; and Jason Marcum, local operations lineman, Western Division.
Alabama Power has a culture that supports and encourages employees to give back to their communities. These six employees embody that spirit of giving and are making a difference every day. Several coach sports, such as Little League Baseball and girls’ softball, one partners with Habitat for Humanity, another works with Friends of the Fallen, while others mentor youth and volunteer with Cyclists for Sight.
Meet these six employees and read their stories by visiting Alabama NewsCenter every Monday for the next six weeks.
Moore said Alabama Power values all its line workers and recognizes the diversity they bring to the company through their many contributions.
“Our linemen routinely sacrifice their time at home and with their own families to make sure the impact of an electricity outage is minimized,” said Moore. “It takes a special person to commit to this kind of lifestyle, and I am proud to say I work with linemen every day across the state who exhibit great strength of character and determination for our customers and our company.”