They work all hours of the day and night to respond to emergencies. The work they do sometimes requires them to deal with dangerous conditions. When duty calls, they sacrifice time with their family and miss out on holidays, weekends off, and special occasions.
These everyday heroes are lineworkers – men and women who work 24/7/365 to maintain our power grid and keep the lights on for the 3.6 million people who live and work in SDG&E’s service territory, which encompasses San Diego and Southern Orange counties.
Today, we join with the Edison Electric Institute and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) to celebrate National Lineworker Appreciation Day.
Commitment to Get the Job Done No Matter What
Dedication is in the DNA of line workers, as was evident in recent days, when they worked around-the-clock – in triple-digit heat – to repair and replace power poles damaged in the Alpine/West Fire and restore power to customers. Some of our employees came in to work over the weekend and joined the repair crews, even though they themselves were affected by the West Fire to varying degrees.
“It was very hot, very dusty. We even got rained on a couple of times,” said Matt Soares, a construction manager and second-generation lineman, who oversaw the pole repair and replacement work in the Alpine area.
Aside from the muggy weather, crews worked in challenging terrain – canyons and mountains – to switch out burned poles and string new lines.
The work carried special meaning for some of our crews because they live in Alpine or know of family and friends who live in that area. “A lot of guys who work here live out here,” Soares said. “It was like neighbors helping neighbors.”
Camaraderie and Commitment to Safety
There is a strong sense of camaraderie and commitment to safety among lineworkers. Often they are among the first to arrive at the scene of emergencies to address safety hazards, such as downed power lines. When the West Fire broke out, some of our employees helped fellow workers evacuate from their homes in Alpine.
When crews are out working on a job, they watch out for each other’s safety. The pole repair and replacement work in Alpine was completed with no injuries and damage to equipment!
Collaboration Across Trades
While today’s line workers still climb and rig power poles like those from previous generations, nowadays there are new equipment and technologies to help with the physically-demanding work. For example, this past weekend, our Aviation Services deployed helicopters to help set new poles in Alpine.
It’s not just aviation services that line workers coordinate and collaborate with it. They work closely with multiple trades and staff from various departments to get the job done safely and expeditiously. This weekend, 11 multi-disciplinary teams – consisting of gas crews, equipment operators, facilities/logistics support staff, and engineers, as well as lineworkers and Aviation Services – took part in the Alpine restoration work. In addition to addressing gas emergencies in the burned areas, our gas crews spent countless hours working side by side with our linemen helping to dig pole holes.
“It was a huge effort,” said Soares, who is coming up on 19 years with SDG&E.
Reflecting on being a second-generation lineman, he added, “There’s a lot of hours and time put in so when people come home, they have lights.”