Every day, the CPS Energy family of highly dedicated, well-trained professional linemen tackles a variety of dangerous tasks to keep the lights on in our community.
Some stock the insulated trucks to keep them ready for any and everyday situations, from freezing rain to mid-summer thunderstorms. Others climb poles during 100-degree heat and raging weather, wearing layers of heavy, uncomfortable but protective clothing. Dozens more work on underground lines, as transmission specialists and general trouble shooters.
Will Schneider, 43, is one of those linemen. He joined CPS Energy almost 24 years ago, just out of Navarro High School in Geronimo, Texas, after a short stint at Bexar Electric.
In the first of what will be a new blog feature highlighting some of the many jobs at CPS Energy, we sat down with Schneider and asked him to tell us about his job.
Tell us about your job as a lineman.
We start our week with a discussion of safety, to get our minds back on a work track and off our personal lives. We then debrief our crew on the daily job assignment and load up our trucks with the equipment we need to do the work. Braving traffic, we head to the work location where we talk more safety, detailing the crew’s task and potential hazards.
A day’s work could include installing or repairing cross arms, transformers or wires on the poles — anything it takes to keep the lights on for our customers. Hazards might include rotten poles that can fall on you, live electrical lines, freezing rain on a mid summer afternoon and extreme heat in August while wearing fire-retardant, heavy, protective gloves and clothing.
We work high above the city. When you work at such heights it’s hard not to be taken with the grand perspective made possible — great sights all around. It’s challenging and rewarding.
Check out this 2013 commercial featuring Schneider:
What do you like most about being a lineman?
It’s humbling. We provide something to customers that they really need. Electricity is essential and it’s really nice to get thanked for doing your job when you get the power back up for folks.
What’s the most challenging part?
The anxiety can be overwhelming. In this line of work, a thunderstorm rolls in and most people are pulling up their covers. We’re pulling up our work boots to climb a pole, working between lines with up to 34,500 live line volts. Not everyone can handle that.
That’s a lot of electricity.
Enough that when it meets metal it can cause a splatter and generate so much heat it can burn the oxygen off and ignite hydrogen in what’s called an “arc.”
What advice do you have for future lineman?
Always be your brothers’ keeper. Be safe, so you can all go home to your families.