Electric co-op Lineworkers test life-saving skills at 2023 Pole Top Rescue Competition - Carolina Country

Electric Co-op Lineworkers Put Lifesaving Skills to the Test

2023 Pole Top Rescue Competition held at Nash Community College

By Josh Conner and Townley Venters

Cameron Clark, Lumbee River EMC, takes first place at the 2023 Pole Top Rescue Competition.

In a competition showcasing lifesaving skills, 25 electric co-op lineworkers from across North Carolina raced against the clock — and their peers — for the title of state champion at the 2023 Pole Top Rescue Competition held by North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives in October.

Pole Top 2023 winners

Meet the 2023 Pole Top Champs. Pictured, top to bottom: First Place: Cameron Clark, Lumbee River EMC, with a time of 01:37.7; Second Place: Austin Story, Blue Ridge Energy, with a time of 01:43.3; Third Place: Cody Buck, Brunswick Electric, with a time of 01:48.9; Not pictured: Chris Griffin of Union Power maintains the overall record with his 2014 time of 01:33.47.
See all the competitors

“North Carolina’s electric cooperative lineworkers exemplify the meaning of service to community,” said Farris Leonard, director of job training and safety for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. “Whether day or night, rain or snow, our lineworkers are out in their communities ensuring the 2.5 million North Carolinians who rely on electric cooperatives to power their lives have access to reliable service.”

The competition took place on de-energized equipment, simulating a scenario where a lineworker finds a coworker unconscious atop a utility pole. The competitor, dressed in full climbing gear, must radio for help, scale 20 feet up the utility pole, lower a weighted mannequin and begin CPR. Participants are scored based on time and precision.

“When I heard my time after my run, I was nervous about if it would hold up in the final standings because there were a lot of highly skilled lineworkers competing,” said Cameron Clark, a powerline technician for Lumbee River EMC, who placed first in the competition. “Once I heard the final times and realized I had won, it was an amazing feeling because it meant all the hard work paid off to get here.”

While a top-three finish is a highly coveted honor for these lineworkers, competitors like Austin Story — who has now competed in six pole top rescue competitions — say at the heart of the event is safety.

“Every single one of these competitors, and every lineworker across the state’s co-ops, is trained for situations like this,” said Story, a line technician for Blue Ridge Energy, who placed second this year. “While we hope a situation like this never occurs, knowing I can trust the people that I share the lines with gives me peace of mind and makes my job much safer.”

The biennial competition was held at the Nash Community College campus thanks to the valuable partnership between North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives and Nash Community College’s Lineman Training Academy. All North Carolina electric cooperative lineworkers must complete this same scenario in less than five minutes to maintain their certification to work on co-op power lines.

About the Author

Josh Conner is the communications specialist and Townley Venters is the director of communications for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives.

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