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May 22, 2024

On the Job with a Lineworker

A routine day for a lineworker can involve replacing and inspecting power poles and power lines, upgrading electrical equipment or streetlights and setting up service for new customers. That’s if they aren’t responding to service or emergency calls. This is where Elkhart Line Servicer Nate Prenkert helps.

Prenkert helps disentangle a truck from wires.

Prenkert’s work day is often unpredictable and busy as a line servicer. He is often dispatched first to power outages and emergency incidents to get a grasp on the situation to determine if a line crew should be dispatched and what equipment is needed to restore power. On average, Prenkert responds to 8-10 service calls per day.

“I’ve been with I&M for six years and I enjoy being a line servicer,” Prenkert said. “Basically, I’m a problem solver and I troubleshoot in the field. If the job can be done without a crew, I’ll do it. If not, I’ll get the lay of the land and report back to get the right people and equipment to restore power.”

On a warm and sunny April day, Prenkert started his job with a residential outage in a heavily-wooded Elkhart neighborhood. When he pulled up, he instantly thought a squirrel was involved – and he was right. Prenkert was able to safely and quickly restore power. While packing up his gear, another service ticket was sent his way.

“We had a report from the local sheriff’s department about a tractor clipping power lines,” Prenkert said. “When I got there, I discovered a wire hanging over the street, a snapped power pole and damage to electrical equipment supplying power to a nearby home.”

Luckily, the wire across the street was a phone cable. Prenkert called his supervisor to let him know a line crew would need to replace the pole and called 811 to have an emergency locate performed before the line crew arrived. Prenkert also talked with the customer whose electrical equipment was damaged.

Once the line crew arrived, Prenkert was off to his next job. He was called to investigate and reconnect three businesses to power. One outage was likely caused by an animal, the cause of the second couldn’t be determined and the third cause was easy for Prenkert to identify.

“I could see the power pole was down in a ditch off the parking lot. I noticed right away it appeared the power line connected to the business was burnt and needed replace,” Prenkert said. “Instead of having the business wait for a line crew, I decided to get into the bucket truck and safely replace and restring the power line. The business was back up and running in about an hour from my arrival.”

The business owner and employees came out to watch Prenkert in action. This is something he is used to, and he stayed focused on the job.

“A lot of being a line servicer is interacting with customers. They often have questions about their outage or give me valuable information to help me assess the situation,” Prenkert said. “We also interact with police and fire departments on a regular, if not daily basis.”

Interacting with police is exactly where Prenkert was headed to for his next service call. The Elkhart Police Department was involved in a police chase where the suspect hit two power poles and created an ensuing standoff. Officers needed Prenkert to come to the scene.

“I waited until the police said the area was safe and the scene was clear for me to inspect the two power poles that were hit,” Prenkert said. “We inspect the power poles and equipment to make sure they weren’t damaged or a threat to public. The poles were still standing and all equipment was working. I informed the officers on scene and I was cleared to go to my next job.”

The next call for service turned out to be just a few blocks away. A semi-truck trying to navigate through closed streets from the police chase and standoff became entangled in wires.

“The police and fire departments needed me to come to the scene to ensure the lines were deenergized and safe. In fact, the driver was still in the truck waiting when I arrived,” Prenkert said. “I tested the wires and told police and fire officials it was phone or cable lines and the scene was safe. I then went to work helping to untangle the semi-truck from the wires.”

From there, Prenkert ended his day with a few service appointments and outage inquiries. From where his day started to where it ended was a whirlwind for Prenkert. But he loves the work and wouldn’t want to do anything else.

“In this job, you’ll never work the same job twice. The situation and the circumstances surrounding an outage are always different,” Prenkert said. “I’ve always wanted to work in a field different from everyone else. With line work, I get to do what other people don’t want to do or are too scared to do. For example, I work in extreme heat and cold, through storms, climb poles and work in a bucket truck with electricity all to help customers and businesses.”

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