COVINGTON, Ga. — Linemen — the kind who climb poles and work to keep your power on at all hours of the day, and not the big guys you see playing football on Sundays — are cut from a “special cloth,” Snapping Shoals EMC CEO Shaun Mock said.
But while special, their value to society often goes under appreciated. That’s why 10 years ago, after Hurricane Sandy devastated multiple countries in 2012, the 113th Congress passed a bill to designate April 18 as National Lineman Appreciation Day. April, as a whole, has been deemed Lineman Appreciation Month.
Sandy was the most destructive of the 2012 hurricane season, as it impacted 24 states, including the entire eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine, as well as the Caribbean and Canada. More than $70 billion in damages were caused by the storm, and 233 people were killed.
Electric linemen played a vital role in the region’s restoration of power and returning to normal— as they always do.
The position of electric line workers has been listed in multiple studies as one of most dangerous jobs in the nation. Linemen often work non-traditional hours in difficult weather conditions. But before the work begins, becoming a journeyman lineman can take more than 7,000 hours of training.
Once trained and on the job, the work gets heavy. The equipment and tools that a lineman carries while climbing a utility pole can weigh up to 50 pounds — the same as carrying six gallons of water. Linemen are also required to climb poles ranging anywhere from 30 to 120 feet tall.
Something Mock learned from spending time with Snapping Shoals EMC’s linemen and supervisors is that being a lineman isn’t necessarily a choice, but rather, “this is their calling.”
“This isn’t just their job,” he said. “It’s how they give back to their community and give back to the world. You can look at whenever a hurricane blows through Louisiana, or an ice storm in Kentucky; if they can help, they want to go. It’s really a pretty special thing to see those guys step up, and it takes a really strong family to support them.”
Mock said he feels strongly that the linemen at Snapping Shoals EMC are among the best in the nation.
“A lot of times, our linemen are first to be called when storm crews outside the affected area are needed,” Mock said. “I’ve had managers from other parts of the country come up and shake my hand and say, 'I can’t tell you how proud we were to have your guys. They showed up early, left late. We didn’t have to go back and redo work. They work fast and work safe.’
“Our community is really privileged to have that group of linemen here.”
In a recent post on social media, the city of Covington recognized its linemen for the work and sacrifice they make to keep Covington’s lights on.
“We are grateful that you weather the cold, the heat and the storms, as well as endure the criticism that may come when you can't immediately restore power due to circumstances beyond your control,” a city spokesperson stated. “We are thankful that you sacrifice time off or time with your families and that you have families willing to share you with us. We are appreciative that you often forfeit sleep and the amenities of home for countless consecutive hours or sometimes days. And we are indebted to you for working with the dangers of electricity, on a daily basis, to ensure the comfort and security of each of us. Stay safe and thank you!”
The position of a lineman is often not a popular one among teens trying to figure out their career plans, but Mock says it is a good career option “if up to the challenge.”
Snapping Shoals EMC has a scholarship program that offers two $3,500 grants per year to students interested in attending lineman school. Requirements to be considered for the award include living in a household served by SSEMC; be a high school graduate, hold a GED or be a high school senior in good standing; and have a driver’s license with a clean record.
Learn more about about the scholarship program at ssemc.com.