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An Outage at 2 A.M. and It's -35C Outside? No Problem

December 10, 2012
Published In: Power

​When a storm rolls into the city, it's only a matter of time before her foreman calls. It's all hands on deck, and everyone knows they have a long night ahead of them as buildings start to go dark.

Whether there are 10 customers in the dark or a thousand, we're on it — even in weather that few people would dare set foot in, if they can avoid it.

 

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"When you're out there with your team, your life is in their hands, and their life is in yours. You build strong relationships, in work and outside of work. I see these people that I work with more than I see my family or my friends."

- Meghan, Utility Worker

"When a snowstorm hits, we typically see vehicles  sliding into our pedestals, power bases, cubicles and other equipment," says Meghan, who works in EPCOR Distribution & Transmission's Underground section. "Sometimes they'll end up causing a complete outage, depending on the severity. Either way, we need to be out there to fix it."

You can take comfort in knowing that in an EPCOR control room, our people are monitoring the city and the entire electrical transmission system on a big screen and individual monitors.  As a storm passes through, the screens light up as neighbourhoods lose power. Meanwhile,  EPCOR's Power Emergency phone line is ringing off the hook as customers confirm what we are already seeing on our screens.  But, these calls are important because we rely on the public  to help pinpoint exactly what communities the outages are affecting.

The work is prioritized based on impact and crews are dispatched to investigate.  But even though your lights can come on with the flick of a switch, it takes a lot more to get the power back on.

"Sometimes I'll get a call at two in the morning and my foreman will say, 'We've got a hit cubicle,' and we don't know until we get there how bad it is," Meghan explains. "Sometimes a car has driven right through it. Or the car is right on top and we have to wait for others to de-energize it and have a crane take the car off before we can begin work." 

Depending on the nature of the damage, each job can take a lot of steps. Sometimes that involves a complete rebuild with numerous crews each working on their part. It could take as little as a few hours to as long as 16 hours — or days, with people working outside around the clock. Cold weather can make it take even longer.

"When you're out there with your team, your life is in their hands, and their life is in yours. You build strong relationships, in work and outside of work. I see these people that I work with more than I see my family or my friends." 

This kind of work isn't for just anybody. It's demanding, both physically and mentally. But for those who enjoy a thrill, there's nothing like it.

"The trouble calls are my favourite," says Meghan. "I love the troubleshooting, and the fact that I never know what I'm going to get called in for. I can't say no when the call comes in because I love what I do."

​When a Storm Hits Our Town