Life As a Lineman

DEC linemen work hard every day to keep the lights on.

Nothing gets done at the Co-op without teamwork. Through collaboration, DEC has set the standard for how electric utilities can provide reliable power while also maintaining a member-centered focus when it comes to the communities we serve. This achievement is due, in large part, to the many departments within the Co-op working together to provide such results. By working as a team, employees can help ensure Co-op-wide success, and nowhere is the necessity of that teamwork more apparent than with DEC line crews.

“Oh, it’s paramount,” journeyman lineman Harrison Burris says. “You can’t do anything alone.”

Burris has been doing linework for nine and a half years, one and a half of those at the Co-op. Burris says that one of his favorite parts of the job is the team aspect.

“My favorite part about the job is the guys I work with. I keep in touch with a lot of guys I used to work with. The guys here are great. Most of the day we’re laughing,” Burris says. “That’s the best part.”

Because linemen frequently work in challenging conditions, a strong team dynamic is crucial to getting the job done. Whether out in harsh weather conditions like blizzards and hurricanes, or faced with difficult, sometimes unexpected projects, linemen have to be able to depend on their crews to not only be prepared, but also to be adaptable for whatever the situation calls for.

“We could be climbing a pole, we could be working out of a bucket, we have some transmission, you could work in a substation. The next day you’re underground, in a trench splicing wire,” Burris says. “Every day could be different.”

While the jobs may differ in content and complexity, that unpredictability presents its own form of challenges, first and foremost being the unpredictability itself.

“I don’t know what I’m going to get into sometimes,” Burris says. “We could have a plan, and it goes out the window. Even on a day you have something perfectly planned out, it can go out the window. You never know, but you’ve got to be ready for everything.”

Unlike some utilities, DEC has a sizable fleet of linemen on staff, as opposed to utilizing mostly contractors. According to Burris, having a dedicated workforce trained to do jobs requiring the skills and training of linemen is critical to providing efficient member service.

“Our job as linemen is to deliver and maintain the electrical system,” Burris says. “Having linemen working on our system employed by the Co-op creates a great response time for outages and a great way to manage system improvements. A lot of work can be done by other people, but there are only a handful of people in the state – in the country – who can do this job, and having them onsite is very important.”

There’s no illusion – the jobs of our linemen are not for the faint of heart. It requires strength that goes beyond physical, which is a given. It’s equal parts of ability and commitment for a job well done and a community well powered.

“It’s a big sense of pride,” Burris says. “When you’re looking across some dark houses or a dark street, or half the town is dark, and you finish up that last little thing, and all the lights come on, that’s pretty cool to see.”