In early September, when it appeared Tropical Storm Hermine would strike the New Jersey coastline, Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) geared up to respond to potential power outages in its service area. In addition to linemen from fellow FirstEnergy utility companies, forestry workers and contractors, the company called on a relatively new, but important resource – the JCP&L-IBEW Local 102 Emergency Response Team. Comprised of members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 102, this team is well-equipped to help speed the service restoration process following a severe storm or other major event, including protecting the public from downed wires and other hazards.
Training and deploying electric trade workers to assist utility workers with service restoration work was a concept developed through a unique partnership between IBEW Local 102 and JCP&L. Classroom instruction and field training sessions were held at a JCP&L facility in Phillipsburg.
JCP&L became the first utility in New Jersey to form such a partnership with a trade union. Since its inception in 2013, JCP&L has trained more than 400 trade union members to provide damage assessments of electrical equipment. “It’s a natural fit since our members have the talents and skills that can benefit JCP&L customers when they need help the most,” says Bernie Corrigan, IBEW Local 102 president. “JCP&L was eager to get the program started and held several comprehensive training sessions to prepare our members to do this important work.”
IBEW Local 102 members are familiar with JCP&L’s service territory because they live and work in the area. “Their extensive knowledge and ability to be quickly deployed help free up our crews to do major restoration work,” says Jim Fakult, JCP&L president. “The partnership helps supplement JCP&L’s dedicated workforce and benefits customers by getting the lights back on safely and quickly during significant storms.”
JCP&L’s successful partnership with IBEW Local 102 led to the program being expanded to include IBEW Local 400 in Monmouth and Ocean counties. “With both partnerships in place, we are now able to support a large portion of our service area with additional hazard responders during severe weather-related events,” Fakult says.
The trade union partnership is one of several significant enhancements JCP&L has made over the past several years to enhance customer service. JCP&L also has:
Through its Power Systems Institute, JCP&L is preparing the next generation of line and substation workers by teaming up with Brookdale Community College in Lincroft and Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg. The program combines classroom learning with hands-on skills training at company facilities. Students who successfully complete the program earn an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Electric Utility Technology.
Through these initiatives, and by building successful partnerships with trade unions, electric utilities – such as JCP&L – are able to continue to provide customers with the level of service they expect and deserve.