Crews thanked for putting it on the line every day
PENSACOLA, Florida – Over the past few years, the Pensacola area has endured an ice storm, a 500-year flood and most recently, severely damaging tornados. While most people seek shelter during these storms, Gulf Power lineworkers venture out into the dangerous elements, putting it all on the line to restore power, and hope.
Despite numerous safety precautions, these workers face dangerous conditions on a daily basis. It’s a job that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is one of the deadliest and most dangerous in the United States.
Yet, with all the known hazards of working with electricity, lineworkers are committed to keeping the energy flowing safely to homes and businesses no matter the conditions or weather.
And for that, Gulf Power and the State of Florida will recognize the contributions and dedication of lineworkers during Lineworker Appreciation Day, Aug. 26, a day set-aside by the state Legislature in 2012.
Gulf Power will pay special tribute to almost 200 employees that work on the company’s 9,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines between Pensacola and Panama City, which serves more than 450,000 customers.
One of those lineworkers, Demetric Washington, has worked seven years at Gulf Power as a distribution service and line technician.
Washington started working at Gulf Power in 2009 after having worked for Solutia for 10 years as a carpet operator. His first position with the energy company was working as a utility person.
After seven long years of training and preparation, he completed the apprentice phase in May and is now working as a journeyman in the Gulf Breeze area.
Washington points out how seriously safety is taken in his line of work.
“In the work that we do everyday, it’s very necessary to be your brother’s and sister’s keeper,” Washington said. “You could easily have an accident. I don’t ever want that on my conscious.”
In this extremely hazardous line of work, a family-oriented atmosphere seems to come with the job. It’s common to hear most lineworkers talk fondly about their teammates.
“I love the people I work with. Sometimes you’re working with them for 12 hours straight, and we have to travel together to help other utilities with major outages,” he said. “They become like extended family.”
Gulf Power crews have traveled more than 30 times since 2008 to help other utilities restore power to their customers.
Washington says he enjoys getting the call to help people, though. “When I’ve traveled to other areas in the country where people have been experiencing longer outages, and you can see on their faces how stressed out and miserable they are. I get to help those people.”
The worst damage Washington remembers seeing was the 2011 tornado in Tuscaloosa. “It basically looked like a scene out of a movie. I can remember booming up in the bucket and actually seeing the path that the tornado took. It was something I’ve never seen before in my life.”
Despite all the dangers and hardships, Washington says he wants to do this for a long time.
“The dangers of my job are always in the back of my mind, but the training I have been through the past seven years prepares me for what obstacles I may come across,” he said.
Washington’s wife Amanda, and their four children look forward to him returning home safely each and every day.
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.