Please join TECO in welcoming crews from other utilities working alongside ours to restore power for our customers after Hurricane Irma

Setting the stage at the Tampa Grayhound Track, reconfigured for welcoming out-of-area crews to help with the post-Irma restoration effort. The track serves as a staging area for people and equipment.

Setting the stage at the Tampa Greyhound Track, reconfigured for welcoming out-of-area crews to help with the post-Irma restoration effort. The track serves as a staging area for people and equipment.

It probably wasn’t the kind of late-summer trip to Florida they had in mind, but about 3,200 workers from across the United States and Canada are in the Tampa area this week and TECO is grateful to be welcoming them. Forget about utility conventions, trips to Disney World or the beach – they’re working hard alongside our crews, around the clock in shifts, to restore everyone’s power after Hurricane Irma.

The crews are here to help as part of the mutual assistance pact with other utilities that TECO belongs to through its membership in the Southeastern Electric Exchange. Of course, with restoration needs this big – more than 6 million customers without power from Irma in Florida alone – it’s an effort that needs the help of people traveling from far beyond the Southeast.

Members of TECO's Facilities Management team transform a customer door at the Tampa Greyhound Track into a temporary air conditioning vent to accommodate out-of-area crews.

Members of TECO’s Facilities Management team transform a customer door at the Tampa Greyhound Track into a temporary air conditioning vent to accommodate out-of-area crews.

“While these line, tree and other workers hail from places that are very different from West Central Florida, their expertise with the tools and techniques to restore power is the crucial common denominator they share with our crews,” said Mark Downing, TECO’s corporate safety director. “At the same time, we can’t overlook many of things that can pose challenges unique to working in Florida – especially this time of year and at all hours of the day, since we have crews working 24-7 to restore our customers’ power.”

Downing is part of a big team at TECO helping make sure the out-of-area crews have the safety guidance they need to get the job done.

Employees of Lupton's Catering work to create a cafeteria at the Tampa Greyhound Track to feed more than 1,000 visiting crews from other utilities.

Employees of Lupton’s Catering work to create a cafeteria at the Tampa Greyhound Track to feed more than 1,000 visiting crews from other utilities.

“While much of what we communicate with the visiting crews is technical and specific to power restoration, there’s still a lot of good safety information for everyone to take to heart whether you work for TECO or not,” Downing said, emphasizing that “Only trained, certified professionals should engage in the kind of work that our crews do to restore power – never anyone else, for your own safety.”

With that said, while the full slate of guidance we provide crews is much more extensive, here’s an overview of some of what Downing and his team members are sharing with visiting crews:

General safety

  • Safety is TECO’s top priority.
  • We believe that every injury is preventable.
  • Proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is mandatory at all times while working in the community.
  • It’s everyone’s responsibility to look out for each other – and to speak up if they see or sense that any situation may be unsafe.
  • The restoration effort will not be successful if even one injury occurs.
  • All injury “near-misses” must be reported so we can learn from them and prevent them in the future.
  • Proper hydration (drinking water) is critical!

Hotel safety (visiting crews need accommodations, and that’s where hotel safety comes into play)

  • Always know where fire exits are located.
  • Take the exit route (including stairway) to familiarize yourself.
  • No open flames in rooms.

Chainsaw safety

  • Utilize specialized personal protective equipment with chainsaws.
  • Beware of kick-back that can occur when pulling a running chainsaw blade free if it gets stuck in a tree limb.

Heat illness prevention

  • Heat and humidity are a potentially deadly combination in Florida.
  • Hydrate with plain water the evening before work.
  • Avoid energy drinks, which can speed up your heart rate and actually leave you more dehydrated.
  • Drink at least a bottle of water each hour.
  • Watch your buddy – offer water to help him or her stay hydrated.
  • Feeling nauseous, dizzy or overheated? Take a break and cool off.

Customer generator reminder

  • Many customers have generators – more in Florida than many areas due to the heat and humidity.
  • TECO communicates the following guidance to customers: DO NOT connect your portable generator to your home’s circuits. Plug your appliances directly into the generator. Connecting your generator to your home’s circuits may cause power to flow to outside lines, posing life-threatening danger to power restoration crews. Also, DO NOT operate portable generators inside or near air conditioning ducts or in any enclosed space (including a closed garage) where deadly carbon monoxide gases could build up.
  • Assume they are connected incorrectly and ground accordingly.
  • Ears are best generator detector – listen for them!

Eye injury prevention

  • Always wear proper PPE.
  • Know when to add a face shield.
  • Report ALL eye incidents, even if you think you washed debris away.
  • Most recordable eye injuries could be prevented if treated immediately.
  • Waiting a single day for treatment increases pain, discomfort and complications.

Knife safety

  • Use the proper tool for the job.
  • Always cut away from your body.
  • Dull knives can be more dangerous than sharp ones.
  • Wear proper cut-level gloves.

Driving safety

  • Never any texting while driving (this is against the law).
  • Ask for help when backing up and out of your spot.
  • Pay attention to blind spots when turning.
  • Assume impatient drivers will do the unexpected.
  • Allow plenty of room between you and driver in front of you while driving, at stop signs and at lights.

Florida pests

  • Wear mosquito repellent.
  • Examine yourself each evening after work for ticks.
  • Walk carefully in brush – snakes!
  • Be cautious around ponds, streams and bodies of water – alligators!
  • Alligators can run faster than you – don’t approach them!

Downed wires

  • Assume every wire is hot – energized and therefore deadly – until it is tested and grounded.
  • Beware of electric back-feed!
  • Ensure customers/bystanders stay at least 100 feet from downed wires.

Visitor safety

  • Keep visitors out of work zone until you invite them in.
  • Any official visitor must be provided a safety briefing and added to tailboard sheet.
  • Media, company visitors, etc. are all treated the same with respect to the guidance above.
  • Ensure visitors have proper PPE before entering work zone.

Emergency response

  • Know emergency contact numbers before work begins.
  • Know where you are located so you can describe location to emergency responders.

Equipment inspection

  • Check vehicles before operating.
  • Walk “circle of safety” around your vehicle before getting behind the steering wheel to detect obstructions that may be hard to spot if you don’t look for them.
  • Perform necessary inspections on critical equipment – grounds, cover, gloves, hoists, rigging, etc.

From all the men and women at TECO, and on behalf of our customers, thank you to the out-of-area crews helping ours restore power in the community. Above all, stay safe!

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8 Responses to Please join TECO in welcoming crews from other utilities working alongside ours to restore power for our customers after Hurricane Irma

  1. Lori says:

    Thanks so much for your prompt response! We love you!

  2. jsargee6 says:

    Thanks for helping , I’ve been there and it’s nice to know people are grateful

  3. Roger Breit says:

    Thank you to all of the talented people who came from so far away to help us. I have personally spoken with folks from Ontario and Michigan and am so very grateful.

  4. James Durling says:

    So Impressed with the timely response to a major event. Love TECO!

  5. Antonella says:

    You guys are doing a great job. Thanks for the hard work 🙂

  6. Thanks for coming to the aid of our tampa community.

  7. Julie Indessi says:

    Thank you to everyone who is helping to get Florida back up and running again. Please be safe so all of you can return home to your loved ones!

  8. peppyprince149224 says:

    You folks did a really really great job getting the power back on in auburndale Florida I thank you so much. Jerry

Comments are closed.