Marshfield Utilities Sends Lineman to Help Restore Power in U.S. Virgin Islands

Ayers and Vanderwyst

Marshfield Utilities to Provide Mutual Aid Support Through FEMA

Marshfield Utilities (MU) has a long history of helping those in need, and this past weekend, two linemen from MU, Mike Vanderwyst and Randy Ayer, embarked on a mutual aid support trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands to assist with restoring power after Hurricanes Maria and Irma’s destruction to Virgin Island Water and Power Authority.

Organized by American Public Power Association (APPA) and Municipal Electric Utilities of Wisconsin (MEUW), the trip is expected to last a minimum of 30 days, with the first crew committed to at least 14 days. The crew and a utility truck will travel to Florida, where the truck will travel by barge and the crew by plane to the islands. Several municipalities in Wisconsin responded to the call for help and will also be traveling during this time.

Earlier this year, MU provided assistance in Florida in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, and in past years MU has helped throughout the country for a variety of different reasons.

“Help can be needed for a number of issues, not just storms,” said Melissa Barnes, MU Human Resources Manager. “We can help with sourcing equipment and material, like if there is a request for various material like wire and connectors, for example.”

Response efforts are well structured and organized by APPA and MEUW to ensure maximum use of available resources. Linemen are provided meals, water, and a place to sleep.

“Where we sleep can range from a tent to a hotel to whatever they have available,” said Vanderwyst, adding that he is just happy to be able to help. “It’s just nice to help out people in need, because at some point we might need help. The electric industry just works that way.”

“It’s a team of electric linemen working together to restore power to many areas that have been without electricity since the hurricanes hit a few months ago,” added Derrek Caflisch, Electric Operations Supervisor. “Our linemen are well-trained and respected in the electric utility industry. This opportunity allows our linemen to share and also learn from other linemen from across the nation. The lessons learned during this experience will be shared with their coworkers and advance MU’s emergency preparedness plans.”

While on the Islands, Vanderwyst and Ayers will be working 12-14 hour days, at least 6-days a week.

“That’s how long the sun shines down there,” said Caflisch. “They work from dawn to dusk.”

Before sending a team, MU evaluates resource levels to ensure the reliable service Marshfield Utilities customers depend on, will not be impacted.

“We try to look at in a way that won’t leave us short-staffed here,” said Barnes, adding that safety is also an important consideration. “We want to be able to go and help, but we don’t want to be putting them at risk. We are very safety-focused here, and we want to make sure we are sending them into a safe situation.”

“Line work is not done without a plan. It’s a lot more structured, because the endgame is keeping everyone safe. No compromises,” added Caflisch. “As far as the work, there isn’t much different than what they do when they leave here. They are always mentally prepared, always ready to respond to wherever the need is.”