Simon Benjamin – Overhead Mechanic, Distribution Operations
I’ve been a BGE overhead mechanic for three-and-a-half years. During that time, I’ve worked summer storms and winter storms and just about everything in between. But nothing compared with last August when Hurricane Irene caused such incredible damage to our system. We worked for days and days to restore power to our customers, and it was very gratifying to be part of our hard-working team.
After the snowstorm hit New England, we were called to provide mutual assistance to our sister utilities. Like many of the guys I work with, I volunteered right away. I had never worked a mutual assistance job and was looking forward to the challenge. We left Halloween morning to support Con Ed, the local New York utility. Once we got there, we found lots of damage—wires down, tree limbs on wires and some broken poles. We started working right away because we knew customers had been out of power for several days and were losing patience, and even a little bit of hope.
The customers have been just terrific. People are so happy to see us. Some customers have tried to give us money to buy lunch or coffee, but we always
politely refuse. I pride myself on having a calm demeanor, a good attitude, and I always keep my emotions in check. The few times I’ve come across an irate customer, I’ve assured him or her that we are doing our best to get the lights on as quickly as possible. One woman, who was very angry, ended up with a big smile on her face when I explained that we were there to repair the pole that caused the outage. Customers are looking for reassurance that their lives will be back to normal soon. One of the best parts of my job is closing the fuse that turns on the power. We often hear a big cheer from customers when the lights come on.
After five days in New York, we left for Connecticut to support Connecticut Power & Light. Fortunately, the weather has been beautiful—very sunny with highs in the 40s and 50s which makes the work go faster. Since we’re working on an unfamiliar system, we talk about safety constantly. There are daily safety briefings with the host utility, then we have our own safety briefing before we hit the road. Finally, we have a safety briefing when we arrive at each site. I’m proud and thankful to report that there have been no safety incidents.
Even though the hotel is comfortable and we are fed breakfast, lunch and dinner each day, being on the road for more than a week—especially doing this kind of physical work for more than 14 hours a day—gets pretty tiring. But the toughest part is being away from my four-year-old daughter. I call her every day, and every day she asks the same question: ‘Daddy, when are you coming home?’ She understands that I have an important job and was excited when I told her we would go Christmas shopping as soon as I get home. I know she’s in good hands and that helps me be able to fully concentrate on my job.
The jobs are winding down and we should be home by Friday of this week. I’m really looking forward to seeing my daughter and sleeping in my own bed, but we won’t leave until all the work here is done. I remember being so thankful to the outside crews who assisted us during Hurricane Irene, so returning the favor is just the right thing to do. On behalf of all the guys working mutual assistance, we want to thank the customers of Consolidated Edison, Public Service Electric & Gas, Pennsylvania Power & Light and Connecticut Power & Light. Your kindness and generosity have been so appreciated!
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To see more images from our mutual assistance effort regarding the October snowstorm visit our Flickr