Most folks are taught to steer clear of power lines, but line technicians do the opposite, handling heights and high voltages daily to maintain a community’s electric service.
It’s dangerous work that takes skill to do so safely and efficiently.
Three local Duke Energy line technicians recently had an opportunity to showcase those skills when competing at the 13th-Annual Carolinas West Lineman’s Rodeo.
Josh Childress, of Pinnacle, and Steve and Austin Crissman, of Siloam, formed a journeyman team only a few weeks before the competition.
Childress and Steve Crissman are partners who work out of the company’s Mount Airy operations center.
Both have been linemen for more than a decade.
Austin Crissman, Steve’s 21-year-old son, works out of the Rural Hall center.
The event, which was held at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds in Shelby on April 23, was hosted by Duke Energy.
The top three journeyman teams and top three apprentice teams earn a spot to the world competition in October in Bonner Springs, Kansas.
Childress and the Crissmans placed 17th out of 25 teams.
“We were pleased,” Childress said. “Everyone had a good time, the competition went well.”
The teams compete at two standard events: a hurt-man rescue and the pole climb, and two mystery events which are announced the day before the rodeo.
This year’s mystery events were a “reclosure change-out,” which is replacing a protective device that de-engergizes the line when necessary, and a “crossarm change-out,” which is replacing the crossarm at the top of the pole that supports multiple conductors.
“It goes hand-in-hand with the work we do on a daily basis,” Childress explained, noting one exception.
At the rodeo, the work is done “off the hook,” whereas most modern line work is completed with the use of a bucket truck.
And though the environment is simulated, “everything we’re doing is as if the line were energized.”
The teams are judged on speed, agility, technique and safety.
For the pole climb, a competitor climbs to the top of the pole carrying a canvas bucket – which holds an egg – in his teeth, swap it out with a bucket hanging at the top of the 40-foot pole, and send the replaced bucket back down.
The event is reminiscent of days when a lineman’s tools would be sent up that way.
“You just try not to drop anything,” Childress said. He shared the term used to alert those below: headache.
The hurt man rescue simulates a worker who is injured or unresponsive at the top of the pole.
“It’s a skill we practice to be able to get medical help,” Childress said. While the workers must stay in compliance with rescue skills necessary in an emergency situation, he said he’d never had to use that particular skill on the job.
“I hope I don’t ever have to,” he said.
Admittedly “pretty competitive,” Childress said the team was glad to have come in about the “middle of the pack.”
Or as Steve Crissman put it: “We’re not dead last.”
The local team plans to stay together and practice for next year’s rodeo.
“Next year is going to be better,” Crissman said, but his first experience at competing was a good one.
“It was pretty awesome,” he said. “We get to show off our skills in a way, but it’s also fun. The whole event is very family oriented.”
Especially for Crissman, on a team with his son.
“As a parent it makes you proud when you see your kids accomplishing stuff,” he said. “It made me proud to compete with him and do as well as we did.”
Childress also appreciated the family-friendliness of the event.
“My wife and family had a big time,” he said, adding that his 4-year-old took full advantage of the bucket truck rides offered.
“That was probably the highlight of their day.”
For dad, it’s all in a days work.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.