SHREVEPORT,La. - Utility linemen. Most people don’t consider them first responders, but they are the first ones to respond when there's a power emergency.
Linemen have a big responsibility when it comes to providing customers with electricity and safety, 24/7/365 days a year.
“I’ve been here 27 years and probably missed about half of those Christmases,” said Brad Brown, technical trainer senior lineman with SWEPCO.
While a lot of people take cover when severe weather strikes, hundreds of linemen are getting ready to deploy.
“I’ve seen the Atlantic Ocean with the hurricane in Florida and I’ve seen the Pacific Ocean with the fires in California,” said Tom Littles, also a SWEPCO lineman.
They spend years training but, “Anything can happen to the best sometimes,” said Brown.
A lineman’s job can be dangerous. They climb poles, operate trucks and heavy equipment, fix sagging wires, load transformers and more. But it’s gratifying for them knowing they are providing families with a vital service: electricity.
“I always knew I wanted to help people and this is a way I help people a lot,” explained Jacob McCombs, a SWEPCO lineman apprentice.
These workers say this is more than a job, it’s a lifestyle with no room for mistakes.
“A lineman’s pencil does not have an eraser,” said Littles, while Brown added, “You make one mistake and it’s unrecoverable. There’s no going home.”
Many people would assume that the hardest and most dangerous part of a lineman’s job is dealing with electricity. But in reality, there’s a lot more to it.
They sometimes have to climb up hundreds of feet to work with electricity. In some cases they have to face things like strong winds, rain, lighting and even fire.
But McCombs saw heights as a challenge.
“I used to be afraid of heights and this job just intrigued me and I wanted to conquer that fear and go to the next step,” said McCombs.
These linemen can climb up anywhere from 75 feet to over 300 feet. But height is not the only danger they face.
“We also deal with very high tension, heavy equipment, bad terrain, dogs…” said Littles.
But these workers say it’s the drivers not paying attention they fear the most.
“Some of the most dangerous things that I’ve experienced it’s not necessary with the work, but when we are working along the roadways people don’t slow don’t and don’t pay attention to us.That gets pretty hairy sometimes,” said McCombs.
Although safety is their priority, their families are always on their minds.
Littles knows his job is a dangerous one; he prefers to be very vague with his family about what he really does.
“I do not include my family in a lot of my work hazards. I keep the two separate. I don’t want my family worrying. Husband and dad comes home, I’m tired and that’s pretty much that I share. They know dad goes away sometimes a couple of weeks at a time and gets the power back on for other people,” said Littles.
So the next time you flip a switch and there’s light, thank a lineman.
Anyone who is training to become a lineman has to go through at least 4 years of training. During that first year, they learn how to do things like climb poles and operating the trucks
The second year they start doing hand on work like fixing sagging wires, loading transformers and more. For the third year they would focus more on things like breakers and learn about substations For their last year of training, they put all of this training to work and graduate.
If you are interested in becoming a lineman, visit https://www.swepco.com/info/careers/