We are stronger when we work together and we prove it each time a storm rolls through. One of the seven cooperative principles is cooperation among cooperatives which means we provide help when other co-ops are in need and they assist us when storms hit. We call this mutual aid.
To learn more about how Piedmont Electric upholds this principle, we spoke to two of our linemen, Jonathan Jacobs and Jason Howerton, who volunteered to work on the storm restoration team after Hurricane Matthew battered the coast in 2016.
What’s it like working on storm restoration?
The long days combined with the mass destruction from a hurricane creates unique challenges. We always make sure that our home base is secure and all of Piedmont Electric’s territory has power before leaving to assist which means we’ve already worked long hours before heading out to a neighboring co-op.
When we arrived at Central EMC (in Sanford, NC) after Hurricane Matthew swept through, our first restoration site involved replacing two broken poles which is not a quick fix. Large storms can cause outages that take longer to restore because the damage is typically more severe.
After we finished working two days at Central EMC, we traveled to Santee EMC in South Carolina. At Santee, we replaced a broken pole in an area that had received so much rainfall that the ground acted like quicksand each time you attempted to dig a hole for the new pole. We had to work safely and quickly to remove the auger (a spiral digging tool) and set the pole in place before the ground gave way.
Why do you volunteer to help?
We know that feeling of relief when we see other co-ops arrive to help us after a huge storm and it’s important to us that we help other co-ops feel the same way. They’re our neighbors and helping people is what we do.
Any safety tips for our members?
Never go looking for downed power lines as the ground around them might be energized. Linemen are trained to locate the issue quickly and safely, so leave the search to the experts. If you have a generator, always follow the safety instructions and never run a generator in the basement, garage, an enclosed space or near an open window. Be sure that your generator has a double-pole, double-throw switch which keeps the generator’s electricity from flowing back onto the power lines, endangering linemen.
In addition to providing storm restoration assistance to two local co-ops after Hurricane Matthew, over the past few years Piedmont Electric operations personnel have provided storm restoration assistance to four other co-ops.