It’s a shock

Editor’s note: T-R staff writer Stephanie Ivankovich offers a firsthand account of what life is like as a power lineman.

All the average person sees is that the lights are on and the bill is in the mail.

Members of the media, including the Times-Republican, visited the Marshalltown Alliant Energy training center Tuesday and participated in hands-on training activities to see what power linemen do to keep those lights on or get them back on.

The members of the media put on hard hats, gloves and safety glasses, to climb up a wooden pole, go 55 feet in the air on a bucket truck, dig holes using a Digger Derrick, extinguish fires, and other activities, while learning about safety.

Lori Wildman, training specialist with Alliant Energy, said safety is the No. 1 priority.

“We are training our future workers for safety, not only for themselves but for the consumer,” Wildman said.

As a member of the media, I was barely able to do the training activities that Alliant Energy power linemen do every day.

“Sometimes it looks easy,” Wildman said. “But there’s years of training and apprenticeships that’s gone in that background for the employee to get them ready for the field.”

Wearing about six pounds of equipment, including over belts, heavy rubber gloves, boots and strap-on spurs, I climbed about five feet up a wooden power-line pole, then gave up.

After getting some background you’re more appreciative, Wildman said.

“When you get behind the scenes of what they do at their jobs and what they do to be safe,” Wildman said. “There’s a lot of skilled base training that goes in.”

The linemen provide services that everyone relies on and that’s why they do it, said Justin Foss, Alliant Energy spokesperson.

“They understand that when the power is out they go out in all sorts of conditions,” he said. “Normally people want to stay inside and be safe from the weather, these guys go out in all sorts of conditions to get things put back together. It’s a job that they live, breathe, love and is a huge service to the community.”

When a power lineman is working, Foss said safety for the bystander is important.

“We recommend they stay outside the cones, give them some room,” Foss said. “These guys are our neighbors, living in these cities. Wave, say ‘hi,’ we’ll wave and say ‘hi’ right back, we just want people to not get too close and understand what they’re doing is working hard so everybody else can get the energy they need.”

Instead of calling 911, the police or the fire department when there is a power outage, the best number to call is Alliant Energy, Foss said.

“We’re the only ones that can help get the power back on,” Foss said. “When more people report the outage, our linemen are able to better pinpoint where the problem is. That helps the linemen because they don’t have to spend as much time looking in the dark for an issue.”

The number to Alliant Energy is 1-800-Alliant. An outage can also be reported on a smartphone at