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When the power goes down, they go up

When the power goes down, they go up
April 7, 2021

If you’re like me, a good storm is exciting, and a surefire sign spring has arrived in Nebraska. Yet, anyone with young kids knows the fear storms – and general nighttime hours – can evoke. One of my favorite NPPD commercials depicts a young boy named Eddie. Eddie’s dad asks him to run to the barn to get a pipe wrench in the dark of night. With trepidation, Eddie complies. He slowly approaches the barn, opens the creaking door and shakily finds the light switch. Only when the barn is flooded with light does he breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Eddie would probably be pleased to know that on average, NPPD’s transmission system is more than 99% reliable and that our average transmission circuit outage frequency is 0.44 per year. This means a typical NPPD transmission circuit experiences an outage less than once every two years. Closer to home, the average length of a distribution outage is between 70-80 minutes, with unplanned outages caused most frequently by three nature-related culprits: storms, squirrels, and vegetation.

As we saw during February’s unprecedented extreme cold weather event that forced NPPD to conduct controlled, rolling outages, a robust electric system is critical in maintaining the reliable supply of power you enjoy. NPPD’s line, substation and generation crews play a pivotal role in this effort, and they take that job seriously.

Not only is our transmission and distribution system reliable and resilient so you can enjoy life’s smaller necessities, like watching baseball under bright stadium lights, making coffee or finding reassurance in the glow of a nightlight, but it’s also readily available to transport electricity at times it really, truly counts. Could we complete an honest day’s work without it? Electricity really does power almost every aspect of our lives.

Ensuring you have power when you want or need it requires the competency and dedication of NPPD’s 130 line technicians who reside in our vast service territory across the state. These folks manage and maintain more than 160,000 structures and 8,000 miles of line. They work safely day and night, in rain and snow, and during many other adverse events that may come our way (and in Nebraska – you never know what we’re going to get).

Why do they willingly do this? Well, in my experience, it comes down to one, pivotal reason: their commitment to you, their communities and to a need greater than themselves.  

This type of work isn’t for the faint of heart. The hours are sporadic and the environment they work in uncontrollable. Grit is a necessary characteristic of any line worker, who must carry up to 50 pounds of equipment up a 200-foot pole. And, safety is of utmost importance and a core value maintained through even the smallest task, especially as many of our line crews are out and about in your communities performing maintenance work on our lines to ensure their continued reliability and security.

You know as well as I do that Nebraskans take great pride in their local line workers. You’re probably thinking of one you admire and respect right now. They are your family members, friends and neighbors. They are selfless and supportive to not just the communities they serve, but also to the teams they work within. They do not hesitate to volunteer to assist in mutual aid efforts for our customers and those in other states and beyond.

As we celebrate the upcoming Line Workers Appreciation Day on April 12, I encourage you to reach out to someone you know who carries the job title of “line technician” and give them a pat on the back or a word of appreciation. I know I will.  

Here are a few other ways you can celebrate line technicians:

  1. Be on the lookout for television and newspaper stories on your local news channels, like this one, highlighting various line technicians in your community and shining a light on what their profession entails.
  2. Stay glued to NPPD’s Facebook and Instagram pages for special upcoming productions, including this “Top 10 Reasons We Appreciate Line Workers” video.
  3. Educate your young loved ones or students about a career as a transmission or a distribution line technician.

For all our retail customers out there, I encourage you to download the “NPPD On The Go!” app. It’s a great way to report any spring storm outages that may occur, as well as track your energy usage and bills. Should you run into a fallen power line this spring or summer, brush up on safety best practices by reviewing these storm safety tips.

Above all, if you find yourself faced with a storm-related power outage this season, be like Eddie – and just breathe. You can rest easy knowing there are several line workers out there doing everything they can to restore power safely and quickly!

Tom Kent signature