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Living and Working on the Road

Our power generation maintenance crews often have to work on remote job sites. For some locations, there might not even be a hotel or restaurant for miles. Here are some tips on how our crews make the most of their time on the road:

  • Explore alternate accommodations. Trying to live off (and not exceed) the per diem allowance can be a challenge, but there is nothing more depressing than a cheap motel. A number of our crew members purchase campers and park them at local camp grounds. They make up for the cramped kitchens by grilling out as often as possible.
  • Bring your own pillow. Even after a full day’s work, it can be difficult to sleep in unfamiliar surroundings – it feels like restful sleep is almost impossible to achieve. Invest in yourself and buy a top-of-the-line pillow – it makes a difference.
  • Recharge during your free time.  Working away from home gives you time to do the things that might otherwise seem like a luxury. In other words, make the most of your surroundings and go fishing every chance you get!

 

Being away from home and family during the week can be stressful. RUS appreciates the sacrifices that our crews make to get the job done.

 

Be Ready for Snake Season

One of our hydro mechanics recently came across a banded water snake (also known as a Southern water snake). The mechanic opened the draft tube door to inspect the parking ledge for the runner – and realized he had some company in there. At RUS, we have a specific training module on snakes that is a required part of our new hire orientation. Making employees familiar with the types of snakes that are common to our work area, and teaching the crew what to do when they come across a snake, can keep a run-in from becoming a recordable.

Snakes are most active between April and October, when warm weather brings them out to mate. In the Southeast, the venomous snakes that our crews are most likely to encounter include rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths (water moccasins). And although most people don’t like snakes, the snake diet of insects and rodents makes them helpful to have around. We teach our crews that snakes are not aggressive, and will only bite if they are startled or feel threatened. But venomous or not, a bite from a snake really hurts!

These common sense precautions can make everyone safer:

1) Never pick up or attempt to move a snake.

2) If you see a snake, back away slowly; a snake’s striking distance is about half the total length of its body.

3) Wear leather gloves if you have to handle debris, lumber, rocks or other objects where a snake could be hiding.

If an employee is bitten:

1) Call the onsite emergency number (or 911) right away. If the bite is from a venomous snake, time is of the essence for administering anti-venom.

2) Remember the color and shape of the snake. These details can help medical personnel treat a bite.

3) Keep the bitten person calm, which slows the spread of poisonous venom. Have the person lay or sit still, with the bite level and below the heart. Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing until medical personnel arrive.

Snakes should not be killed when they are found; many are protected as endangered species.  In the case of the banded water snake, it will flatten its body when it feels threatened in order to appear larger. This snake also emits a foul musk, and bites repeatedly, slashing sideways to tear the flesh of its attacker. Letting the snake have time to return to the water (which is what the RUS mechanic did) is the safest and smartest course of action for everyone.

Historic Hydropower

Susan Dunlap

Hydropower was the first large-scale renewable energy source used in the US. Many of the hydro sites where RUS works today are well over 100 years old. While we all count on the reliability of hydropower, it is easy to forget how revolutionary the idea was in 1895 to transmit generated hydropower over cable lines to homes and businesses.

We recently ran across a book called Men and Volts: The Story of General Electric, written by John Winthrop Hammond in 1941. Hammond explained that twenty-five GE motors (newly installed in 1895) drove all the spindles in the Pelzer Manufacturing Company’s Upper Mill, which was the first cotton mill in the US to use transmission cable. Captain Ellison Smythe, the mill’s owner, showed true courage to sign a contract for electric motors instead of the mechanical rope drive that his other mill’s used. The public was skeptical – and the mill hands were convinced that the scheme would never work.

“On the day the mill started operation, a kind friend approached Captain Smythe … and offered his condolences on the failure of the electrical transmission system. ‘I’ve watched those wires all day,’ he said, ‘and they haven’t moved yet.’” The story is told that mill operatives placed pails beneath the wires, in order to “to catch the electricity that fell off.”

Those same electrical motors that successfully powered Pelzer Manufacturing quickly became a hit with other industries, including “mines, shoe factories, yarn mills, tanneries, powder mills, watch factories, and even for blowing church organs.” And Smythe did not stop there – the Pelzer Manufacturing Company’s Upper Mill was the first mill in the country to use incandescent lighting.

At RUS, we know that hydropower is renewable and reliable – and we appreciate that it is also historic. Thank you to the visionaries of 1895!

Sources – Hydro Review, October 1997, and Electrical World, March 14, 1896, as found at www.reference.insulators.info. Photo credit: https://reference.insulators.info/publications/view/?id=10261

 

Rebuilding versus Purchasing New Equipment

Power generation companies often need to get their mills back up and running as quickly as possible, without the added complication of waiting for back-ordered equipment. Keeping spare replacement parts on hand is not always feasible, and unscheduled purchases of new equipment can take a real hit to a capital expenditure budget. It might be time for your company to consider rebuilt equipment as an efficient and affordable option. Call RUS today to see how we can help you. Click below to view the latest brochure on our journal rebuild program.

RUS Journal Rebuilds