Electricity is essential to modern life. It keeps critically ill people alive and enables our entire economy to operate. Maintaining electricity service takes dedicated teams of professionals who work around the clock, rain or shine. Learn more about the everyday heroes helping keep your lights on.
The U.S Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that the U.S power grid is made up of over 7,300 power plants, 160,000 miles of high-voltage power lines, and millions of miles of low-voltage power lines and transformers. This much infrastructure requires an army of dedicated crews putting their communities ahead of themselves to connect, maintain and restore power.
Just think, the reason you can read this article at all is thanks to the hard work of the linemen on your local electrical network.
In the U.S, there are more than 120,000 linemen working electrical grids, a number growing at nearly 3% per year. While there are many causes of power outages, natural disasters are the unfortunate number one. To the average person a power outage is nothing more than a minor inconvenience; but to someone who relies on electricity for medical reasons, it is a matter of life and death. This means linemen are working around the clock in 90 degree (30°C) heat, rain, sleet, snow and hurricanes to restore power.
According to some estimates, roughly 580,000 of Florida’s 11 million business and residential customers remained without power on the afternoon of October 3, 2022, due to the damage caused by Hurricane Ian. Thousands of utilities workers from 34 states traveled to Florida to help restore power lines and other equipment.
The lineman’s job is to keep the lights on, and it can be a very dangerous one. Linemen run the risk of electrocution, arc flash explosions, and falls from great heights, all in relatively remote areas where help may be some distance away. Tait comms systems allow these crews to communicate faster, stay safe in the field to get problems fixed, and to restore power whatever the conditions. Let’s take a closer look at common problems that linemen face day-to-day, and technology solutions that can mitigate these hazards.
If electricity utilities are waiting for their customers to call and complain about a power outage, then critical time is being wasted. Distribution automation tools exist to immediately raise an alert when a site is unpowered. Linemen say they prefer working on overhead lines to underground ones, as every conducting component is visible and accessible. They can quickly identify the fault in a transmission cable or transformer and get underway with repairs. Where it becomes difficult is when the lines run underground, visibility is often cut short and automation tools such as Tait GridLink are required to isolate the fault. Depending on the infrastructure and how many devices there are determines how quickly linemen respond, be it underground or overhead.
Comms Between Teams
The reliability of comms is critical to the success of a team. Linemen require precise inter-team communication when working with live or ‘hot’ wires, alongside reliable contact with dispatch to ensure they can travel to and fix a fault efficiently, and call in additional crews if they need assistance. A PTToC solution is crucial in this environment as it allows teams using different devices such as mobile phones and tablets to communicate on the same network as radio users – ensuring a clear line of communication.
Dispatching the Crew
Tait offers a myriad of work-safe solutions to automate the smaller tasks for linemen. Tait GeoFencing and Location Services can trigger preconfigured actions in radio such as changing comms channels when moving between districts, and the real-time location of a crew member via fast-polling. Dispatch are able to closely monitor the location of an individual or team and in the event or emergency where additional crew, vehicles or equipment are needed.
Linemen are equipped with ARC rated rubber sleeves, gloves, and head protection making accessibility to their comms equipment difficult at times. The Tait TP9000 range of portable radios are designed with gloved-users in mind, with options for larger knobs and dials meaning that although lineman are wearing thick gloves their radio remains accessible up high or on the ground.
Tait Portables have been designed with usability in mind, when linemen are scaling a power pole to reach a transformer, comms can be heard clearly through the radio’s powerful 3W speaker. Tait Portables feature active noise cancellation for excellent voice clarity; a bright screen for low light environments, and a designated emergency button to alert dispatch when help is needed.
Safety Features for Lone Workers
An emergency button is not the only precaution available to ensure the safety of lone workers. It’s common for linemen to work in crews of multiple people, but on rural callouts, it may just be one crew member attending. If working with live or ‘hot’ wire was not dangerous enough, working alone adds another element of danger. To enhance worker safety, Lone Worker functionality comes standard of both Tait portables and mobiles. If a worker does not respond within the predetermined time frame, an alarm is raised to dispatch that personnel may be in danger and require assistance.
Enhanced Coverage Options
Radio coverage has been trusted for decades in public safety and critical industries such as electrical utilities. As technology advances so do the capabilities for coverage. TAIT AXIOM combines the best of radio and broadband capability by extending coverage to include both LMR and Cellular networks. Tait makes it easy to immediately broadband enable your existing LMR radio while keeping personal equipment load the same, with the lightweight and compact TAIT AXIOM Wearable. Whether linemen are working inter-city or rurally, they have options for the best signal strength in their work environment. TAIT AXIOM Mobile turns utility trucks into mobile communications hubs that can move seamlessly between communications networks; utilizing custom workflows for linemen such as automated reporting and checklists.
Linemen are hugely community orientated with them sacrificing time on Thanksgiving and Christmas to be on call 24/7, 365. With the right procedures and equipment by their side they can keep their communities running.
We thank them for their hard work and dedication to keeping the lights on, and are proud to offer solutions to get them home to their families as quickly and safely as possible.
Learn more about Tait’s experience in Solutions for Utilities.