Power outages don’t wait for business hours, and the linemen and servicemen who respond to them don’t either.
Similar to how police and firefighters are the first responders to an emergency, servicemen are the first on the scene when power is interrupted. Whether it’s a blink in the afternoon or a full-blown outage in the middle of the night, they are the utilities’ first line of defense.
Electricity powers our lives. When an outage strikes, utility crews respond right away — heading outside whether it’s a 100 degrees in the middle of the day or below freezing in the middle of the night.
Because outages are unpredictable, Clark Public Utilities servicemen crews are designed to move quick. They’re almost always one person, on-call with a work truck on hand that’s pre-loaded with tools and parts. Keeping a truck with on-call employees produces substantially shorter incident response times, compared to the traditional method of having a multi-person crew meet at the utility Operations Center to grab a truck before reporting to the outage site.
“This is an exciting job; you never know when the call is coming or what the situation is going to be and you need to be able to do a lot of on-the-spot problem solving to figure it out,” said Clark Public Utilities Serviceman Mikhail Pavenko. “It’s very rewarding to be the person who brings the power back to a neighborhood.”
Servicemen are journeyman lineworkers who are prepared for all but the largest repairs. Nine times out of 10, one person’s knowhow, tools and bucket truck are all that’s needed to get the lights on. But sometimes — such as during a major storm, a problem at a substation or when equipment is damaged — the job is too large or complex for one person. In those cases, the serviceman reports the situations to utility dispatch, who then sends out a line crew with the people and equipment to make the repairs.
Clark Public Utilities owns 7,200 miles of electric wire and 62,000 power poles across a 628-square mile county, all of which is maintained and repaired on a routine basis, but not every single wire is under its care.
The utilities’ responsibility ends at the service lines and electric meter on the side of the customer’s home or building. When a customer reports an issue, a serviceman will come out to investigate. When it’s clear the utilities’ equipment isn’t at fault, they’ll often do a quick assessment of the customer’s equipment to identify the issue and explain what work is likely needed to repair it and when to call a professional electrician.
This can help speed up the repair process for customers, especially during a storm when many homes and businesses may be dealing with similar issues. Homeowners can call an electrician with a clear explanation of what to expect.
“Electrical systems can be complicated and we know that most people don’t have the experience to understand what’s going on with the conductors that supply electricity to their homes,” said Pavenko. “So, we’re happy to explain what they’re looking at and what’s happening with all those wires.”
Winter is peak outage season, which means servicemen are as busy as ever right now.
Customers can help them by reporting outages 360-992-8000 or online using the outage reporting tool at clarkpublicutilities.com.
Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.