Local lineman training put to use in Puerto Rico

Several graduates of the Northwest Lineman College in Meridian, who are now working for U.S. power companies in the United States, are on their way or already on the ground in Puerto Rico to help with the power crisis caused by Hurricane Maria. (KBOI photo)

Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico's electric grid, mainly by taking down most of the power poles.

And administrators at the Northwest Lineman College in Meridian say they're not surprised to learn two Northwest graduates now working for U.S. power companies are either on their way or on the ground to help with the power crisis in Puerto Rico.

"And I know there's more (Northwest Lineman graduates) over there," said Mike Appleford, campus president. "We don't have specifics on names. But we do know of two who are over there working on the restoration effort right now."

It makes sense.

Power lines and electrical connections are what the Northwest Lineman College is all about.

Students are taught how to climb and work in adverse weather conditions -- and much more.

"They learn about electrical theory, lineman theory," said Gil Maiuro, industry relations manager. "They learn rigging. Equipment operations. Safety practices when they're out in the field working."

Both Appleford and Maiuro are veteran linemen and have worked in the aftermath of many hurricanes.

"The biggest challenge is fatigue," said Appleford. "They try to mitigate it. But number one is long hours. And the conditions on the island. I know they're trying their best to supply these guys with what they need."

"Most dangerous thing about it is safety, of course," said Maiuro. "You've got fallen trees, the unexpected."

That's why safety is lesson number one at the Northwest Lineman College which started in Meridian in 1993.

The college now has campuses in California, Texas and Florida, graduating some 5,000 students a year.

And it doesn't take long for those graduates to find a good-paying job in the United States.

Administrators at the Northwest Lineman College say America is facing a shortage of qualified electrical workers.

But they also say they're doing their best to fill that need in the industry.

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