Most of us drive by rows of utility poles every day. But how much do we really notice them? These often-overlooked watchmen play an important role in delivering reliable power to the members of Pioneer Electric Cooperative.
Wind and storms have an obvious effect on utility poles — sometimes snapping them right in half — but other elements of nature can also have negative consequences. Excessive moisture, insects, and woodpeckers can cause poles to deteriorate. People can be harmful to poles as well, even if they don’t intend to. Anytime a nail, staple, or other fastener is attached, it creates an additional pathway for water and insects to access and weaken the pole. This is one of the primary reasons that it is illegal to attach anything other than authorized electrical equipment to a utility pole. Anything else — such as advertisements, posters, deer stands, birdhouses, or basketball hoops — can lead to damage and will be removed by the cooperative’s employees.
In addition to reducing the life of the pole, unauthorized attachments can also pose a hazard to Pioneer Electric’s linemen. Nails, tacks, and screws can tear their essential protective gear, like rubber gloves or flame-retardant clothing, exposing workers to the risk of electrical shock.
Signage is also dangerous for the general community, because it can block the view at busy intersections.
As part of Pioneer’s annual work plan, utility poles are inspected on a regular basis. Each year, Pioneer contracts a company to examine more than 5,000 poles throughout the cooperative service territory. To check their condition, poles are exposed just below the surface and examined for decay or damage. Those that show signs of weakening are then placed onto the co-op’s list to be repaired or replaced, depending on the nature of the problem.
Regular inspections and avoiding unapproved attachments helps prolong the lifespan of utility poles. A well-maintained pole can last 20 to 30 years — sometimes even longer — and allows Pioneer to continue providing the safe, reliable, affordable power our members depend on.