September 26, 2016

Love on the Line

Lineworkers don’t work alone on your electric co-op’s power lines. Whether they are climbing 45-foot poles, restoring power, or clearing tree limbs to prevent future outages, they are never far from the hearts of those who love them.

At this time of year, stores are flooded with hearts, candy and cards professing true love. But those sentiments seem pale in comparison to the love and concern I see expressed every time a storm sweeps through and co-op operations people are called out in all kinds of weather and danger to repair the power lines.

If the lights go out, our lineworkers’ spouses and families send their loved ones out into the elements. When other electric co-ops are in trouble after devastating hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, floods or snowstorms, our lineworkers have traveled to other states to help bring the lights back on for complete strangers. Each time these brave men and women leave home to help those in need, their families are left behind, praying for a safe return.

Working with high-voltage electricity, lineworkers find themselves in life and death situations on a regular basis. That’s why your electric co-op focuses on “safety first.” It’s also why the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association partners with its member electric co-ops and municipal safety partners to provide a strong and ongoing safety education program for their employees. We know the folks who love our crews appreciate the time we take to make sure they get home safely every night.

Marrying into this profession isn’t easy, either. In my own on-the-line days, I will never forget the time I got called out for an outage repair on Christmas Eve at 4 p.m. in subzero weather. When I got home at 1 a.m. on Christmas Day, my wife had a box waiting for me that was stamped “Some Assembly Required,” and was to be a gift for our kids. “Some assembly” turned out to be 187 pieces that had to be constructed. I got it all put together by 4 a.m., the kids got up at 5, and I got called back out at 8:30 a.m.

While lineworkers are often on-call, larger storm situations with widespread outages can require calling out a lot of other operations people, too. Depending on your electric co-op’s size (being nonprofit and customer-owned, co-ops don’t have an excess of employees), this can include member service representatives, dispatchers, communicators and managers that need to be on-call and ready to respond at a moment’s notice if their community needs them. And, this does make childrens’ sporting events and family get-togethers hard to pull off sometimes.

But the bold men and women who keep your power flowing do so because they know that without their commitment, many of the things we’ve all come to expect—warm food, lights, entertainment—wouldn’t be possible. By devoting their lives to working on utility lines, they connect all of us to a better way of life.

This Valentine’s Day, let’s all take a moment to thank the men and women who support and love lineworkers and those who brave the elements and work long hours to keep power flowing to our homes and businesses each and every day. Thank you for putting your love on the line—we’re committed to making sure those you love return home safe and sound.

Joe McElroy is the safety and loss control director for the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association (MECA). McElroy and Dan King, MECA safety instructor, provide over 200 safety training sessions annually, including first aid and CPR.