Steps to replacing a utility pole

Posted on Mar 05 2024 in Kankakee Valley REMC
Broken power pole

After more than 80 years since electric cooperatives set the first utility pole, they remain the most cost-effective way to safely support power lines, insulators, transformers, and other electric hardware.

Occasionally, a pole needs to be replaced due to a car accident, lightning strike, ice storm, tornado, or simply age. And each pole replacement can be a little different. One thing is sure: it is much more than just digging a hole and sliding a new pole into the ground. Even in the best scenario, the task might take several hours.

Here is a step-by-step description of what typically goes into a pole replacement following a car accident.

1) Assess the situation

The cooperative is notified of a broken pole. This can come from the cooperative’s monitoring system, sheriff’s department, or members. Line workers will visit the pole and assess the damage. This may take 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the location and if the notification comes outside regular business hours.

2) Secure the scene and call in a crew

If the pole needs to be replaced, the line workers on the scene will first make sure the scene is safe. They will de-energize the line following established safety procedures. Next, they will call for a crew of three to four others to come with a bucket truck and a digger truck. In many cases, resetting or replacing a pole also requires calling into 811 — the Indiana “call before you dig” service — before crews can dig new holes. This is required to locate other buried utilities along the right-of-way and can add time to the restoration.

3) Obtain supplies and tools

The original responding line workers will work on what can be done until the additional crews arrive with a new pole and replacement equipment. Depending on the weather and the proximity of the broken pole to the replacement pole and equipment, this may take one to two hours.

4) Replace the damaged pole

When all crew members are present, they begin setting a new pole and will work to safely restore power to members as quickly as possible. This includes removing equipment from the broken pole and attaching the necessary equipment to the new pole. Depending on the location, the equipment needed on each pole will vary. Poles are generally buried around 6 feet in the ground. The buried part of the broken pole is usually pulled out with the winch line on the digger truck. Sometimes, it’s necessary to dig a new hole. Dirt is backfilled and tamped down with hydraulic equipment. The power lines are then lifted back into place and mounted on the new insulators. Once all is back in place, the protective gear is removed, an all-clear is given, and the power is turned back on.

Sometimes it’s possible during the pole replacement process to redirect power to those affected by the outage. It is the goal of the Kankakee Valley REMC to safely restore power to as many members as quickly as possible. The average pole replacement could take up to three or four hours under favorable conditions with no mitigating circumstances — or longer if unforeseen circumstances slow the crew down.