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News | Oct. 9, 2014

Exterior electricians keep the power running

By Airman 1st Class Tammie Ramsouer JBER Public Affairs

A violent wind storm sweeps through Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, damaging stop signs, houses and one of the most important things that keep the mission running: power lines.

The 773d Civil Engineer Squadron exterior electrical engineers go to work to prevent or address problems with the power on JBER, responding to power outages or conducting routing maintenance.

"Poles and street lights are inspected on a daily basis," said Gregory Stevens, 773d CES exterior electric shop work leader. "Every time we drive from one job to the next, we teach our apprentices to always look up to inspect the poles/street lights so we can identify potential problems before they become major problems."

In some cases, the exterior electrical engineers must immediately fix safety hazards such as a downed power line.

"If people do see a downed power line, they are advised stay away from it," Stevens said.

There are two power lines that run throughout the base, low-voltage and high-voltage. Both are dangerous. The only difference between them is a high-voltage line is not insulated like its low-voltage counterpart.

"If the line is on the ground, it has ripped somewhere and usually - with a high-voltage wire - it trips the box and turns the power off," Stevens said. "We advise people to call the fire department or Security Forces if they come across this situation."

Before the exterior electricians can fix these immediate safety hazards around base, there are steps to take for their own safety and for the safety of the base populous.

"We are issued an Air Force Form 269 by our supervisor, Lance Davis, before we can do any work with the high-voltage," said Senior Airman Jacob Lang, 773d CES electrical systems craftsman.

The form follows a list of procedures the electricians must go through to ensure the highest amount of safety before starting any work on high-voltage operations. To start the job, an electrician will go to the substation they will be working on, which is the procedure.

"The individual that is out in the field must stay in contact with a supervisor at the electrical shop to make sure every step is done to isolate the substation," Lang said. "We cannot go any further without our supervisor's approval for each step of this process."

The process can take anywhere from four to five hours to thoroughly ensure all components of the process have been completed correctly.

"In order for all personnel to stay safe throughout the process, everything is checked, double checked and triple checked by different certified personnel at the scene," Stevens said.

Once this process is complete, the electricians go to the area in which the downed power line is creating a hazard.

The exterior electrical shop is in the process of energy conservation throughout the base by upgrading base street lights, which are transitioning from fluorescent to light-emitting diode lighting.

"This process has been going on for about seven months now," Stevens said. "We have reduced the amount spent per kilowatt hour for street lights and flood lights by 75 percent. The amount of light has increased by 50 percent, which should decrease safety mishaps for this winter during the periods of reduced daylight hours."

With the change to LED, electricians said they expect the bulbs to last longer due to their low consumption of electricity.

"It makes our job a little bit easier due to not having to go out and maintain the street lights all the time," Lang said.

The shop conducts training for their personnel to maintain information learned through on-the-job training within their job requirements. Some of the training is scenario based , for example they "rescue" a dummy, which has been electrocuted and trapped on top of a power line pole.

"We also do CPR training every year due to the high-risk nature of our job," Stevens said.

Although exterior electricians spend a lot of time training, they don't forget why their job is important.

"Our main goal is to keep the power on and keeping the substations operational to keep the mission of JBER running," Stevens said.

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