The Power Behind Your Power

By Jimmy Liverman

If someone told you that your job was to play a vital role in helping thousands of people live their lives, you might feel overwhelmed.  But some people do that daily: our line technicians.  And they've done it for over 80 years.   

We rely on many great men and women to help build and maintain the vast system of wires, poles, substations, and other equipment that makes life as we know it possible. 

You’ve likely noticed Roanoke Electric Cooperative’s crews out and about, working on more than 2,000 miles of power lines, 12 substations, and other electrical equipment in our community.  It's no secret that a line technician’s job is tough. It's a job that's essential and must be done, often in challenging conditions. This month, as we celebrate National Lineworker Appreciation Day on April 18, I thought I’d share some interesting facts about our electric line technicians. 

The work can be heavy in more ways than one. Did you know the equipment and tools that a line technician carries while climbing a utility pole can weigh up to 50 pounds? That's the same as carrying six gallons of water. 

Speaking of utility poles, line technicians must climb poles ranging anywhere from 30 to 120 feet tall.  Needless to say, if you have a fear of heights, this likely isn't the career path for you. 

Lineworkers must be committed to their career, because it's not just a job. It's a lifestyle.  The long hours and ever-present danger can genuinely take a toll. In fact, being a line technician is listed in the top 10 most dangerous jobs in the United States.  

They often work non-traditional hours outdoors under challenging conditions.  While the job does not require a college degree, it does require technical skills, years of training, and hands-on learning. 

Did you know that to become a journeyman line technician can require more than 7,000 hours of training (or about four years)? That's because working with high-voltage equipment requires specialized skills, experience and ongoing mental toughness. Shortcuts are not an option, and there is no room for error in this line of work. 

Our line crew is committed to powering our local community despite the many challenges. During severe weather events that bring major power outages, they are usually the first ones called. They must be ready to leave the comfort of their home and families unexpectedly, and they don't return until the job is done, often days later. That's why the line technician's family is also dedicated to service. They understand the importance of the job to our communities. 

Nationwide, there are approximately 120,000 electric lineworkers. Here in our service territory, Roanoke Electric has a total of twenty-one line technicians responsible for keeping power flowing 24/7, 365 days a year. In addition to the highly visible tasks line technicians perform, their job today goes far beyond climbing utility poles to repair a wire. Today’s line technicians are information experts, who can pinpoint power outages from miles away. Line crews now use laptops, tablets, drones, and other technologies to map outages, survey damage, and troubleshoot problems. 

Being a lineworker may not seem like a glamorous job, but it is essential to the life of our community.  Without these hardworking men's exceptional dedication and commitment, we would not have the reliable electricity that we need for everyday life. And they do it all with safety as their guide. 

So, the next time you see a lineworker, please thank them for the work they do to keep power flowing, regardless of the time of day or weather conditions. After all, lineworkers are the power behind your power. Please join us as we recognize them on April 18 and follow “#ThankALineworker" on social media. 

- Jimmy Liverman is Roanoke Electric Co-op’s VP of Operations.