Gulf Power joins state in saluting unsung heroes Aug. 26
PENSACOLA, Florida – According to the Washington Post, one of the most dangerous and deadly jobs in America is that of electrical lineworkers, cracking the top 20 at number 10. These jobs are considered by many to be the fourth most dangerous occupation in the world.
Working with live wires is dangerous enough. Add to that working in all types of weather, from torrential storms to oppressive heat to responding to the scene of an accident. All to make sure electricity continues to flow safely and reliably to homes and businesses.
It’s a tough job with little thanks. But Gulf Power, with the State of Florida, will recognize the contributions and dedication of lineworkers during Lineworker Appreciation Day on Aug. 26, a day set aside by the state Legislature in 2012.
Gulf Power will pay special tribute to the nearly 190 employees that work on the company’s 9,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines between Pensacola and Panama City, which serves more than 447,000 customers.
One of those lineworkers, Ed Morrell, has worked 17 years at Gulf Power as a distribution service and line technician.
“I have a great job, with a great company, and I’m very thankful,” said Morrell. “I get to help people improve their quality of life everyday. Whether it’s just hot outside and they need their air conditioning on or if customers need electricity for artificial respiration or other medical equipment, it feels good to know I play a critical part in their lives.”
Morrell started working at Gulf Power after a church member mentioned possible job opportunities. He applied and interviewed, but was not chosen after his first interview. “It’s all in God’s timing,” he said. Nonetheless, he interviewed a couple of months later and eventually joined the company as an apprentice.
“After graduating from high school, I served in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years,” said Morrell. “I thought it would be hard raising a family in the military by being gone all the time so after the first Gulf War, I did electrical work for myself back home to support my family.”
However, Morrell quickly found that utility line work is very different from wiring a house. He said adhering to the safety standards of Gulf Power is extremely important and always job one.
“We have to constantly be aware of our surroundings and remain safe at all times because your first mistake may as well be your last,” he said.
Morrell began his career assisting in the daily construction and maintenance of the distribution systems in order to provide service in a safe, timely and economical manner. He quickly responded to and corrected problems with the electrical distribution system during normal working hours, after hours, nights and weekends and in extreme weather conditions.
“Sometimes it’s tough working different shifts and being on-call, but I love helping other people and working with our crews. We have a special bond among us. After Hurricane Ivan, we worked for more than two weeks with no power at our own homes. We were inspecting, testing and repairing power lines and other equipment using special reading and testing devices. We rebuilt entire lines, set poles, hung transformers and connected service throughout our area. Working with customers in the field and seeing our communities come together was particularly gratifying,” he said.
He tells fellow lineworkers that when times get tough to remember that others may have it even worse during natural disasters. “We have worked with crews in New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy and with crews in Tuscaloosa, Alabama after tornadoes,” said Morrell in a solemn tone. “Both of those areas were completely devastated, homes destroyed, people were missing, and to bring hope to so many families was indescribable. There is always someone, somewhere out there that needs us.”
Morrell advises others wanting to become a lineworker to have a good attitude, be adaptive and flexible, expect to work hard and play hard, develop safe habits, follow directions and do the best you can.
“There is no such thing as a typical day. I sometimes wake up when it’s raining and I’m surprised I haven’t gotten a call. Other days, I’m prepping my truck for when I have to depart at a moment’s notice,” he said.
Throughout Morrell’s career, his very supportive family has stood behind him. Morrell’s wife Kristie, and their three children look forward to him returning home safely each and every day. They, too, continue making sacrifices.
“It’s funny that sometimes heroes look like ordinary people,” said Kristie. “Most people only dream of meeting their hero, but I married mine.”
Gulf Power is an investor-owned electric utility with all of its common stock owned by Atlanta-based Southern Company. Gulf Power serves more than 447,000 customers in eight counties throughout Northwest Florida. The company’s mission is to safely provide exceptional customer value by delivering reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible electricity while strengthening our communities. Visit online at MyGulfPower.com or on the company’s Facebook page. News information can be found at GulfPowerNews.com.