Holiday Delights: Southport’s Winterfest

The holiday spirit is alive and well in the public power community of Southport. This enchanting seaside city gets the holiday season started off on a high note during the Southport Winterfest, December 7-14, 2019.

This multiday festival is chock full of exciting events and activities for adults and children alike, like the Southport Winterfest Tea, the State Port Pilot Annual Cookie Contest, Supper with Santa’s Elves, and a special Holiday History Tour of the NC Maritime Museum at Southport. Also not to miss are the Winter Craft Festival, Historic Home Tours, and Light Up the Night Christmas Fire Engine parade. The highlight of the festival is sure to be the traditional Christmas Flotilla, held this year on Saturday, December 14 at 7 p.m. on the Southport Waterfront.  For more details and to plan your visit, go to www.downtownsouthport.com/winterfest/.

Holiday Delights: Public Power Celebrates the Holiday Season

Public Power communities around North Carolina have plenty of activities planned to get you and yours into the holiday spirit. Here’s just a sampling of how your neighbors are spreading tidings of great joy during the holidays.

 

Tarboro (December 8 from 2pm-4pm)

Celebrate the spirit of the season at the 56th Annual Tarboro Christmas Parade. Beginning in the beautifully decorated Downtown, the parade slowly rolls up Main Street as kids and adults line the sidewalks to wave at floats and see Santa ride by. Visit http://www.discoveredgecombe.com to learn more.

 

New Bern (December 14 and 21)

Take a trip back in time at Tryon Palace’s “Christmas Belles: A Candlelight Christmas Celebration,” and experience how New Bern celebrated the holidays in the 18th and 19th century. This famed North Carolina tradition returns to Tryon Palace in 2019 with beautiful, new decorations and heartwarming holiday vignettes illuminated by the magical glow of candlelight. Tickets are available now! Visit https://www.tryonpalace.org/candlelight to learn more.

 

Concord (Through January 5, 2020)

Speedway Christmas presented by COOK OUT has returned to Charlotte Motor Speedway, and it’s bigger and better than ever! The 10th edition of Charlotte’s spectacular drive-through light show features more than 4 million lights over a remarkable,3.75-mile course. It’s sure to make your season bright! Visit https://www.charlottemotorspeedway.com/events/speedway-christmas/ to learn more.

 

Looking SHARP for safety in Dallas

The 4,000 or so residents of the Gaston county town of Dallas consider their community an oasis of southern hospitality and charm. So it was fitting that North Carolina Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, from nearby Newton and also known for her southern charm, came to Dallas to laud the town for its commitment to exceptional safety standards as an employer.

“We praise you for going above and beyond voluntarily in order to keep your employees safe while at work,” Berry said. “Keep up the great work.”

Berry was present at the Nov. 12 town board meeting to recognize Dallas town employees and elected leaders for achieving the Department of Labor’s SHARP accreditation. The designation (SHARP stands for Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Programs) was established in the early 1990s and is administered by the agency’s Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Division.

Dallas joins Washington, N.C. as the only municipal electric distribution systems in the state to receive SHARP accreditation (Washington is also a member of ElectriCities). Gaining and keeping the honor means passing a two-part OSH inspection, including a comprehensive worksite inspection, as well as keeping injury rates at or below a three-year rolling industry average, according to Debbie Lowry, a safety consultant who has worked with the Town of Dallas for more than two decades.

“Electricity doesn’t give any second chances and it doesn’t lie,” Lowry said. “Dallas is very meticulous in checking their personal protective equipment and checking their trucks, making sure everything they need when they go out on the job is exactly what it needs to be at all times. I’m really proud of them.”

As a member of ElectriCities, Dallas has taken advantage of the organization’s learning and development programs, which are held throughout the year and across the state, hosted in ElectriCities member cities with training provided by Raleigh-based or regionally based instructors.

The trainings span from Basic Electric Meter School to workshops focused on leadership skills for crew leaders. Lineworkers in ElectriCities communities can even access career development programs online and learn at their own pace at work or at home.

Safety Brings Benefits

Having safe working conditions is not just about awards and recognition, but brings myriad benefits along the way. The chief benefit, of course, is that all employees go home to their families every night. But emphasizing safety helps cities in other ways too.

“When employees come to work in Dallas, they stay there,” Lowry said. “That tells you a lot about the organization. There’s no turnover: you don’t leave, you retire.”

Lower turnover means lower administrative, training, and workers’ compensation costs. In a big utility, that might mean a better return for shareholders. But in a Public Power community, all those lower costs mean lower taxes for residents. And an experienced workforce means better electric service for customers, too. This benefit shows up as fewer outages and faster restoration times when the lights do go out – something that customers really notice.

A Commitment to Safety

Having a safety record as good as Dallas doesn’t happen by being lucky. It happens with a commitment to health and safety up and down the organization.

“Utility Director Doug Huffman has worked for years to create a culture of safety in Dallas,” said Kenny Roberts, senior safety and training specialist for ElectriCities. “Utility staff have participated in line schools, career development training, safety meetings and crew audits, and their leadership has been active on our boards.”

Dallas Crew Supervisor Anthony Michaels currently serves on the board of ElectriCities’ Safety and Training Team, and Huffman has served on boards previously as well.

“I was honored to be there when they received the SHARP recertification. It means a lot, and they deserve the recognition,” Roberts said.

Warm Up to Savings

Halloween is over, we’ve set the clocks back, and temperatures are getting cooler. There’s no denying that fall is here to stay – and the current cold snap has let us know that winter is soon to follow. These simple tips will help you save energy and money all season long. (Some of them might surprise you!)

68 is the magic number. Set your thermostat to 68 degrees or lower when heating your home. Every degree above 68 can increase your bill by a whopping 3-5 percent!

Set it and forget it. Take advantage of programmable thermostats. Especially if you have a furnace, set your thermostat to automatically turn the heat down at night and when you’re away.

Small isn’t always mighty. Despite what you might think, space heaters use a lot of energy and can increase your monthly bill. If you have energy efficient central heating in your home, use that instead.

Don’t forget your maintenance. There are three things to remember regularly. When your fireplace is not in use, make sure your damper is closed; check or replace filters once a month; and clean air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators, and be sure they aren’t blocked.

Hello sunshine! Besides providing Vitamin D, sunlight helps heat your home for free. Open drapes and let the sun stream in!

Order a copy of this bill insert for your customers by filling out the form on our bill insert ordering page.

How I Got Into Energy – Mark Todd

“My Daddy’s been my hero my entire life. My Dad was a lineman.”

Mark Todd grew up with energy in his blood – literally. The son and grandson of lineworkers, Todd knew at a young age that he’d follow the same path.

Among his fond childhood memories are playing ‘lineworker’ with his best friend Van James. The pair had fathers who worked for the same company, and both young boys looked forward to the weekends when the work trucks would travel home to be parked in their yards. James and Todd would find hard hats and rubber gloves and get to work on their imaginary poles, just like they knew their linemen fathers were doing at work. “In our minds we were king of the street, and we were linemen,” Todd fondly remembers.

The thrill of the work wasn’t the only thing Todd noticed about the job. He could sense how highly others regarded his dad’s work, like when family and friends called to check on his safety and wellbeing during storms. “I remember how folks looked at my Dad and they respected him because of what he did,” Todd explains.

The realities of danger associated with being a lineworker were never far from Todd’s mind. And one important lesson, shortly after Todd committed to the job, sticks out. Father and son sat down at the kitchen table.

“He gave me a No. 2 pencil,” says Todd. “And he took that pencil, and he broke the eraser off of it. And he said, ‘Son, a lineman doesn’t need an eraser on his pencil, because he can’t afford to make mistakes.’ Just saying those words today still I get a lump in my throat, because I know now what it was that he was saying. For someone to go in to want to be a lineman, it has to be a calling.”

Todd answered that call diligently. For many years, he worked in the field as a lineworker. In 2012, he took a new path, joining ElectriCities as a Senior Safety & Training Specialist. “Working with ElectriCities in the Safety & Training department, I see firsthand what it means when we talk about communities serving each other,” says Todd. The job has led Todd to friendships in public power communities across the state and outside it and given him a meaningful sense of purpose.

“It truly is a wonderful life and I am blessed far more than I deserve,” Todd reflects. “I hope when this amazing and rewarding career … comes to an end, that I will be remembered as someone who made a difference — someone who cared for the linemen he worked with every day and their families.”


How I Got Into Energy… brought to you by public power.

We want to hear how you got into an energy career. If you’d like to share your story, email Lindsay Hollandsworth or reach out to us on social media, and you might just be featured in an upcoming article.

 

 

 

 

“Keeping the Lights On” License Plate Becomes Reality

Great news! The “Keeping the Lights On” License Plate will become a reality now that House Bill 449 has been passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor. This special plate celebrates the work of all lineworkers and utility employees across the state who work tirelessly to keep our lights on, especially after natural disasters. The proceeds from the plate go to the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center.

On September 17, the governor and legislative leaders joined NC Jaycee Burn Center representatives and lineworkers from across the state to highlight the important work line crews and utility workers perform. Crews from Duke Energy, the Cooperatives, and Public Power were present to represent North Carolina lineworkers.

We have had a great response to the introduction of this specialty plate, and wanted to let everyone know the following:

  • The design is still being finalized but will look very similar to the depiction above
  • In addition to the normal registration costs, the license plate will cost $30 — $20 of that will benefit the burn center
  • Find out more about North Carolina specialty license plates — yes, you can personalize a specialty plate here (note that as of the date of this post, the DMV site does not yet mention the lineworkers plate since it is not yet available)
  • If your vehicle is registered in North Carolina, watch this space for information on when the plate will be available for public sale — it will be at least November, and maybe a few months longer, before it is ready
  • If you’re not in North Carolina and think this is a great idea (you’re right!), contact your state’s Division of Motor Vehicles for information specific to your state

Further questions? Please contact Government Affairs Liaison Drew Elliot at 919-760-6322 or delliot@electricities.org.

‘Thank You’ to Our Public Power Crews

With Hurricane Dorian’s arrival, North Carolina public power communities experienced outages across the eastern part of the state, peaking at approximately 32,000 customers without power. Once it was safe to do so, our crews – our hometown heroes – responded, working tirelessly to restore power to our customers. And we’re pleased to report that all were restored by Saturday afternoon, with most restored in under 12 hours. That said, and for all that you’ve done and continue to do every day, a heartfelt ‘Thank You’ goes out to our public power crews who responded to Hurricane Dorian. We’d like to recognize all those public power communities who sent lineworker crews to assist those in need. Thank you for keeping the lights on.

Mutual Aid Responders:

High Point, NC – Responding to New Bern, NC
Gastonia, NC – Responding to New Bern, NC
Statesville, NC – Responding to New Bern, NC
Danville, VA – Responding to New Bern, NC
Shelby/Newton, NC – Responding to New Bern, NC
Opelika, AL (Opelika Power Services) – Responding to Washington, NC
Lafayette, LA (LUS) – Responding to Kinston, NC
Rocky Mount, NC – Responding to Elizabeth City, NC
Wilson, NC – Responding to Elizabeth City, NC
Tarboro, NC – Responding to Elizabeth City, NC
Wake Forest, NC – Responding to Elizabeth City, NC

For more examples of Mutual Aid in action, visit our Social Hub.

Latest Hurricane Dorian update

As Hurricane Dorian moves out of North Carolina, crews are responding to outages in public power communities across the state. To keep up to date and stay safe, please use the resources below.


Member Utility Resources

View the Outage Map   Emergency Assistance Resources


Customer Resources

For the latest storm updates, visit our Social Hub.

For more information on Mutual Aid, visit APPA online.


Safety Resources

NC Emergency Management reminds residents to secure property in advance of the storm and to avoid flooded and washed-out roads following the storm. DriveNC.gov is a valuable resource for checking driving conditions.

In addition, the ReadyNC mobile app should be downloaded for up-to-date information on preparedness, evacuations, shelters and more.

T&D World: Simulator Takes Risk Out of Transformer Training

ElectriCities of North Carolina uses a new portable, three-phase trainer to instruct linemen in a safe, controlled environment.

When apprentice linemen step out into the line trade, utilities may ask them to build a transformer bank. If this job is performed incorrectly and they perform one wrong connection, they could inflict thousands of dollars of damage and put their livelihood, and even their lives, at risk.

To train linemen how to do this work method the right way, ElectriCities of North Carolina invited municipal linemen from across the state of North Carolina to a one-week Transformer Training School in Maiden, North Carolina, last summer.

Rather than making the linemen sit in the classroom all day and learn from textbooks, the school introduced the students to a new way of learning. Because linemen often prefer to perform physical, hands-on work, the school not only taught the students through classroom instruction, but also gave them the opportunity to practice on a simulator and work on transformers in a training yard.

Linemen from North Carolina municipals practice three-phase transformer banking using the new Load-Trainer II Transformer Simulators.

Training Municipal Linemen

Once or twice a year, ElectriCities offers a Transformer Training School for students—alternating one in the eastern part of the state and one in the West to make it convenient for cities across North Carolina to send their employees. Since each class is limited to 25 students, a second school is sometimes added, but typically, only one course is offered per year.

These training programs are designed not only for the apprentices new to the line trade, but also for experienced journeymen linemen who need refresher training. On the first day of the training program, the students took a verbal pre-test assessment and attended a job briefing before learning about transformer theory and touring the outside facilities.

The next day, the linemen received instruction on IFD and single-phase transformer installation replacement and removal. During the week, they also learned how to size a transformer and troubleshoot an overhead transformer bank following a simulated outage.

To give its students real-world experience with transformers, ElectriCities of North Carolina introduced the new Load Trainer II Transformer Simulator from Utility Solutions at its summer session. The portable three-phase trainer takes classroom learning a step beyond basic textbooks and slide presentations by combining a physical wiring environment with a computer controlled simulation.

Operating the Simulator

The Transformer Simulator, which measures 27.5-in. wide by 19 in. tall by 3.5 in. deep, weighs 16 pounds. It also includes color-coded patch cords and a 7-in. interactive touch screen. To operate the simulator, users apply jumpers between source lines, transformers and a secondary system. When they press the “test” button, the simulator will display phase-to-phase voltages, phase-to-neutral voltages, phase angles and load.

To read the full article, click here.

A Few Days in the Life – Phil Bisesi, Supervisor, Residential Energy Services

Every day starts around 5 a.m. with my golden retriever Anni and her black lab mix brother (of a different mother) Owen.  One of them will rise from their dog beds and walk to my side of the bed and just stand there, breathing loud enough for me to eventually hear.  When they know I am awake, I next sense the gentle wap, wap, wap of their tail happily wagging against the side of the mattress.  I rise slowly and make my way in the dark to my closet to dress, praying I don’t step on one of about 20 dog bones scattered throughout the house.  They both follow me, anticipating one of their daily walks and knowing that breakfast can’t be far behind.  Before them, I’d never had a dog, and now I can’t imagine life without them.

2/13/19 Rocky Mount, N.C. Operations Center.

Today, I taught our Customer Service 101 class to 25 customer service representatives (CSRs) and dispatch staff from our eastern North Carolina members.  We started our Customer Service classes in 2015 and since then, 465 members have attended one of three classes. CSRs are the face of public power, often interacting with more customers than any other public power position.  Sometimes customers can be emotional and upset about a high bill or a cut off notice, and CSRs often bear the brunt of these venting experiences.  The classes are designed to help them better understand the product they sell, electricity, how customers use electricity, and how to handle challenging customer interactions.

2/15/19.  Today, I distributed an email to city managers and utility directors announcing the availability of State of North Carolina grant funds that can be used to purchase electric vehicle charging stations and electric vehicles.  Electric vehicles are a promising frontier for electric utilities.  Public power communities have an opportunity to promote them by installing the infrastructure that will enable electric vehicle owners to charge their vehicles away from home.

2/19/19.  Concord, N.C.

Today, I visited the Cannon School in Concord, N.C. to teach our E-Tracker program to Ms. Mattson’s Advanced Placement Environmental Science class.  E-Tracker is designed to help high school students understand the relationship between the weather and their daily electricity use at home.  To make this happen, we get them to apply the scientific method where they hypothesize what will happen, collect data by reading their home electric meters and recording high and low temperatures every day for a month, analyze the data using spreadsheet analytics including linear regression, and draw conclusions.  The students also measure the electric use of at least five home appliances with a “Kill-A-Watt” meter, which we loan to them.  E-Tracker actively engages students and they feel a sense of ownership in the data, and it is affirming to see them grasp the concepts we are trying to teach.

Each workday ends much like it begins — with my welcome committee of Anni and Owen who greet me with wags and licks and barks once I’m inside the front door.  Now, like in the morning, they know my arrival marks another walk followed by dinner.  Once we return from our walk, it’s feeding time again, followed by medicine for Owen, who has been on antibiotics for a bacterial infection for several months.  Then I prepare dinner for the family, and we sit, eat, and talk about the highs and lows of our respective days.

After clearing the dishes and kitchen cleanup, there will be time for the latest binge watch on Netflix before sleep takes me over, assuredly before the end of whatever episode my wife Joy and I are watching.  I’m awakened with a gentle nudge from Joy, as it is time to take the dogs out one last time. It’s something they probably don’t need to do, but a routine we started with them as puppies and one we continued to do because they/I don’t know life any other way.  When we return, they head to their dog beds and it’s time to brush our teeth and get ready for bed.  On the way back to the bed, I pet the dogs one last time and then head under the covers for the privilege to do it all over again.