Savannah Reams: Greene Publishing, Inc.
Duke Energy is one of the largest electric power holding companies in the United States, providing electricity to 7.6 million retail customers in six states. Locally, Duke Energy is known as a body of service men and women who work tirelessly, oftentimes sacrificing sleep and time with their families, to provide our homes with energy. Duke Energy's Brad Cook, a third generation lineman from Lee, is an example of the outstanding servicemen who aid Madison County.
Cook has lived in Lee for the past seven years, however he hails from Wildwood, Fla. He is married to Heather Cook and, together, they have four children and two grandchildren. He has been in the electrical lineworker business for twenty years, completing his apprenticeship in Wildwood and going on to work in travel crews, transmission, construction and distribution. Cook's grandfather was a lineman in Leesburg, Fla., and his father retired from Duke Energy after 42 years of service. They passed on the heart of a serviceman to Cook and he stresses that the work he does is all for the customer.
The responsibilities of lineworkers include construction and maintenance of all powerlines, overhead and underground, and from the substation to the meter. When the weather knocks out electricity, lineworkers arrive on the scene to restore power as quickly as possible. Even when there aren't any emergencies, they maintain the electrical grid, day and night, to ensure our homes and businesses keep running.
Powerline workers face many dangers, however, Cook claims that Duke Energy provides meticulous safety training and, in order to be at risk, one would have to break a rule. He admits, however, that the biggest on-the-job risk for many linemen is a lack of sleep. Linemen work long days, sometimes remaining at work for 24 to 30 hours. Cook added that stored energy is also a risk factor. When trees fall on power lines, linemen have to take extra precautions to safely remove the tree from the line. The live wires can transfer energy into the tree—contact with the tree without proper precaution could result in injury or death. Despite the risks, Cook feels safe on the job due to the extensive training he has received over the years. "I'm happy to work for a company that works hard to train us and help us be safe," said Cook, who claims that Duke Energy's safety training is highly effective.
Despite the long hours and risk factors, Cook states that seeing customers smile makes the hardships worth it. "I've seen it numerous times," said Cook. "When we arrive, people are mad; people want everything [to be fixed] 'right now,' but we listen to them and, after taking care of their problem, it's nice to see the smile."
Cook traveled to Puerto Rico after the U.S. territory was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Cook, along with many other linemen, worked tirelessly to assist residents in the clean up. "I spent 46 days in Puerto Rico … People there are the most wonderful, loving people. They don't hardly have anything, but will give you anything they've got," said Cook.
"There was terrible damage. Any houses that weren't made of concrete were completely gone. We arrived five months after the storm, so all the wires were covered in vines. Local men with machetes would eagerly pitch in and help us uncover the wires in order to fix them. They were wonderful people."
While Cook brags about the people of Puerto Rico, he and the lineworkers who travel the distance to provide assistance in the wake of hurricanes and other storms are also to be commended. They'll never brag or boast but their humility and heart for service speaks for itself.
Brad Cook is one example of the many men and women who sacrifice their time, sleep and safety to serve their community and communities across the globe. National Lineman Appreciation Day is tomorrow, Thursday, April 18. In honor of those who power our homes, remember the following: The next time you are frustrated during a power outage, take a deep breath, hug your loved ones and be gracious towards those who have left their family to help yours.