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Future lineman explains what it takes to restore power during winter storms, other disasters

Posted at 12:28 AM, Apr 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-01 11:42:45-04

WACO, TX — During February's winter storm, power companies received heavy criticism from customers waiting for their power to return.

So 25 News went out to see what utility workers have to go through to get the job done. Along the way, we learned how hard folks have to work to get those utility jobs in the first place.

”I just recently changed a transformer,” said a beaming Ryan Sabatini, who plans to go boldly into the eye of the storm brewing after the Texas deep freeze.

Utility companies took a big hit on their credibility and reliability as Texas took on frigid weather hit. Sabatini wants to set things right.

”For it being my first time, it was... it was a little technical. I love the job, I love going to school here, and it's... I wouldn't ask for anything in the world,” said Sabatini of his training at Texas State Technical College.

Behind every electric company stands an army of utility linemen, who really do risk their lives to repair electric lines damaged by storms.

TSTC in Waco trains this army to go to battle, guarding against accidental electrocution.

”Historic freezes and hurricanes and those, and we gotta be out there in it... I don't mind the weather. It's a... it's a big danger being out there, and the first thing we always talk about before we even start any job is planning the job and safety,” said Sabatini.

Heading up that safety plan, Jim Fielding, a 46-year veteran.

”I want to pass some of my knowledge on. I love to see these young guys be successful. Teach them a little bit, they'll get a job they get to work 46 years,” he said.

However, that success can only come if trainees follow Fielding's safety rules, because this job has no margin for error. One wrong move, and the juice in the power lines could kill Sabatini.

Climbing the utility poles takes a lot of upper body strength as well as a sense of balance. Why’s that important? It all plays into safety, and safety helps keep the lights on.

TSTC students receive a lot of practice doing such. They mostly learn that the job, as physically demanding as it is, takes time to do it right.

It's something they hope utility customers learn, and keep in mind, for the next big power outage.

”Is the danger part of the attraction?" asked 25 News reporter Dennis Turner.

"A lot of it yeah," Sabatini responded. "I'd have to agree with that, because what we're doing here, this is all... this is all lower level stuff, but I want to work on transmissions, which are the big metal towers that are carrying 300,000 plus volts and other lines in the sky."

As the saying goes, go big or go home.

If there's anything the winter storm taught us, it's that we're going to need people like Sabatini to help keep the Texas electric grid up and running, so others can make sure the wires that run to our homes and businesses deliver the electricity we need.

”It takes time for us to fix every single problem that comes around our way,” said the future lineman.