What building resilience looks like
by Shayna Decker | June 20, 2022
Hiking, a helicopter, teamwork. Did I mention hanging upside down while being (safely) suspended 50-feet up in the air?
It’s all part of a day’s work when it comes to strengthening our island grids to provide all of our customers with reliable service.
In our 2021–2022 Sustainability Report, we shared that we upgraded 400 poles on Maui, Lanai and Molokai. This may seem like routine maintenance work — but it can be anything but when it comes to replacing poles.
Recently, I was able to witness how much goes on behind the scenes to build resilience on our islands when I joined our line crews making two pole replacements in a remote area of Keanae in East Maui that’s inaccessible to vehicles.
The job demonstrated the layers of coordination it takes to ensure every pole replacement is safely and adeptly completed.
Preparation began weeks ahead when the crews attended training required when they work with a special helicopter delivery. One team hiked into the area to clear vegetation and pre-marked their trail to the job site while another prepared the site area and dug new holes by hand for the incoming poles.
The morning of the job, the crews met again at our Kahului base yard to review the day’s work and recap the hazards posed by the rugged terrain and air delivery.
The crews then caravanned for over an hour on Hana Highway, also known as the curvy and picturesque Road to Hana, parked and packed up their standard essential and safety equipment. This included climbing gear, first aid kit and a portable AED (automated external defibrillators) before starting their 15-minute trek through a canopy of thick trees.
Once on site, the crews conducted a “tailboard” to go over the job and each of their roles step by step. Then, with careful radio coordination between the helicopter pilot and a representative on the ground, the helicopter descended with separate deliveries of tools, equipment, and lastly, the new poles.
With each new pole in place, the crews quickly worked together to straighten and set the poles. A crew member then climbed the old pole to remove the de-energized conductors, or power lines, while two others tandemly ascended the new pole to secure the crossarm and insulators to transfer over the conductors.
After the new pole is equipped, the crews made quick work of taking down the old poles, and once on the ground, a chainsaw was used to cut the poles into smaller pieces for easier transport off the site and back to our base yard for proper disposal.
It’s amazing to see such natural teamwork and collaboration in action. No hesitation of what their next step will be or second guessing of what the other person is doing.
Another day of pole replacements completed. Of course, not every pole upgrade looks like this but each one comes with mindful planning and safe preparations, hard work and skill to ensure the lights stay on for our communities — day in and day out.
And just sometimes the day comes with a spectacular view, too.
Shayna Decker is a communications manager at Hawaiian Electric.