The electric utilities in Georgia have once again designated April as Lineman Appreciation Month to honor the men and women who restore and maintain electric service in a safe, timely manner, in every community, rain or shine.
This year, Lineman Appreciation Month is particularly meaningful: during the 2017 legislative session, Georgia lawmakers passed HB 260, legislation that creates a specialty vehicle license plate to honor linemen. Proceeds from the plates will benefit the Southeastern Firefighters Burn Foundation which provides assistance to families of burn patients at the JMS Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta. An event will be held late this summer to reveal the new license plate. (Details will be provided in the weeks ahead after the legislation is signed by the governor.)
The notion of lineman appreciation began several years ago as a national one-day celebration. However, over time, Georgia utilities expanded the celebration totake place over the course of one month rather than one day. Doing so allows electric membership cooperatives (EMCs), Electric Cities of Georgia, Georgia Power, MEAG Power, and municipal systems to celebrate within their local communities at a date and time suitable for each provider.
Celebrations for linemen and an emphasis on their professions have grown. Keeping the lights on has become essential since consumers rely so heavily on electricity to support their everyday lives--heating and cooling, cooking, entertainment (think TVs, computers/laptops/tablets/mobile phones), lighting, water heating (think warm showers and clothes washing) and refrigeration, to name a few.
Earlier this year, linemen and their honorable careers were on display when a three-day outbreak of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes slammed many parts of Georgia and caused extensive damage and destruction in south Georgia. Thousands of customers were left in the dark. In areas where homes, businesses and other structures were destroyed, local crews and crews from across the state worked in the region up to two weeks until all power was restored.
For these selfless acts and others throughout the year, utilities encourage consumers and businesses to send a word of thanks and gratitude to line workers via social media using hash tag #ThankALineman.
Last year, EMCs, investor-owned and municipal systems held a Lineman Appreciation Day event at the state capitol in which Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 767, a new law which provides added protection for utility linemen. The legislation requires any motorist approaching utility linemen at an active work site, as indicated by traffic cones or flashing yellow, amber, white or red lights, to change lanes or reduce their speed to a reasonable and proper speed below the posted speed limit.
Any motorist who does not change lanes or drop his/her speed to avoid the utility workers can be fined up to $250 per incident. The law, which became effective July 1, 2016, applies to all types of utility workers, including electric, natural gas, cable and telecommunications workers, right-of-way crews or utility contractors.