DTE crews answer call to service ahead of Hurricane Irma

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When big storms hit anywhere in the United States, energy providers can call on their fellow utilities to send crews to help restore power. When Florida Power & Light made the call for help Wednesday, DTE Energy agreed to send 400 employees and contractors, mostly lineworkers and tree trimmers, to do our part to help the Sunshine State recover as quickly as possible from Hurricane Irma.

Mutual aid, as it is called, is a venerable tradition in the electric industry. There are procedures in place to make sure the power company asking for help knows what kind of help they are getting and the power company offering help knows what conditions their crews will be facing. It is a system that DTE relied on to help restore power to customers after the March 8 windstorm.

“For us, we’re energized to go down there. We really want to help out and get the lights back on for their (FPL) customers,” said Brian Calka, director of service operations, as crews were preparing to leave Thursday morning.

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DTE crews arrived at a staging site in northern Florida Friday evening, where they will ride out the storm with other lineworkers and tree trimming crews from around the United States. Once the storm has passed and FPL has assessed the damage, crews will be assigned to begin work. The challenge for non-FPL crews is working safely on a grid they are unfamiliar with.

“We have no exposure to their system, so everything will be brand new for us,” said Calka. “Safety is paramount for our crews, so when they go out there, they will spend extra time before they start doing their work to understand what is around them to ensure their safety is upheld while they’re out there.”