Heroes Who Keep the Juice Flowing
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It’s 3 a.m., and the ink black sky is interrupted by a silver streak of lightning and the reverberating crash of thunder. I’m 7 years old, and I’m afraid. Not so much of the storm, itself, but because I know that soon my dad will receive a call, and he does. In a matter of 10 minutes, his demeanor has changed from a sleepy stupor to steely determination. He kisses his family, but his mind is already on the task that awaits him. This story is for my father and those like him.
Lineworkers vary in age, height, size and background, but have much in common: sun-weathered faces, farmer’s tans and hearts of service. They have thick skins, adapt well to sudden developments and tend toward fearlessness. Weather seemingly has no effect on them. Their uniform consists of long sleeves, jeans and boots, even in temperatures soaring into the 90s. On a given day, those same garments may be rain-soaked and caked in mud.
Todd Douglas Photography
Utility customers trust that when they flick a switch, there will be light. But line technicians including Demetric Washington of Gulf Power Co., pictured here, know that power is a high-maintenance proposition. Squirrels, trees, storms and wayward automobiles all can lead to calls for emergency service.
Few people are cut from fabric durable enough to handle this line of work. Few would choose to find themselves 40 or more feet in the air with 7,200 volts pulsating around them. The lineworker’s work life is not one of pencil pushing and key stroking. Instead, they answer calls arising from a squirrel that has tripped a line, a drunk driver who has hit a utility pole, or even a hurricane whose path is on track to devastate a city.
Every day, the lineworkers of Gulf Power rise to meet the challenges that face them at the top of a pole.
Life on the Line
Countless sources report linework as one of the most dangerous professions. Although every safety precaution is taken, lineworkers are cognizant that injury and death can occur on the job. They assume those risks as readily as they tie their boots, strap on their safety belts and head into the elements, always without asking for an ounce of praise.
“I think of how hard it can be sometimes and, too, how dangerous it can be,” said Joyce Vanselow, a Panama City Beach service technician of 15 years. “We are very safety conscious and we want to make sure everyone goes home at night. It’s a tough job, but a rewarding job.”
A fellow Gulf Power line technician, Demetric Washington of Pensacola, offered similar thoughts.
“The dangers of my job are always in the back of my mind, but the training I have been through the past seven years prepares me for what obstacles I may come across,” he said.
Families are affected when a lineworker is unable to make family dinners, dance recitals, baseball games or holiday gatherings.