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Spotlight on the Line Trade: Dale Kishbaugh of Colorado Rural Electric Association

Dale Kishbaugh traveled to Guatemala with 15 line workers from Colorado and Oklahoma to provide first-time power to remote villages through the NRECA’s Energy Trails program.

  • Born at Reese Air Force Base in Lubbock, Texas.  He has one younger sister and one older sister who passed away in a car accident in 2017.
  • Married to his wife, Helen, for the past 15 years. She has a daughter who lives in Mesa, Arizona, and a one-year-old grandson, Jacob.
  • Has an uncle who served as an electrician.
  • Enjoys spending time with family and friends, cooking and barbequing, volunteering and going to church. He also enjoys traveling, camping, fishing and hunting.

Early Years
One summer, I worked on my uncle’s crew as a laborer at Holloman AFB in Alamogordo, New Mexico. After completing my inside wireman apprenticeship with Gardner Zemke,  I transferred to the line crew. While working on a line reconductor job, I discovered I enjoyed working on the line crew more than serving as an inside wireman. I then started traveling with the Gardner Zemke line crew and enjoyed being outside all the time.

After five years on this crew, I applied for an accredited apprenticeship program in Phoenix, Arizona. The knowledge and experience I gained working with the different crews at IBEW Local 769 was like drinking water from a fire hydrant. Hands-on learning and the things you pick up stay with you forever. Pride in the industry and the trade is developed at this point. When you work as a team to accomplish the task at hand, it feels good going home knowing you made a difference.

Day in the Life
Today as the director of safety and loss control at the Colorado Rural Electric Association (CREA), I work one of the best job safety and training staffs in the country. As a team, we provide safety training for the 22 distribution cooperatives in Colorado. We also assist with training on several NRECA programs. The team also helps with mutual aid assistance, assistance with the Mesa Hotline School and conducting an annual safety conference. As a statewide association, the entire staff is always looking for ways to support our state’s cooperatives. 

Challenges and Rewards
The biggest challenge is keeping up with the constant changes that take place and staying current with all the new equipment that keeps our line workers safe. The rewards of my job are being able to continue to get in the field and walk away at the end of the day knowing that the information I share with each cooperative employee might make that little difference to slow them down and realize that their safety is the most important thing to make them go home every day.

Safety Lesson
Every time there is an incident, it makes me reflect on how we could have prevented it or wonder why it happened. For example, I remember one incident when a crew was performing annual inspections for substations. The crew completed their tailboard and went to work. When they completed one substation, they packed up and went to another substation to perform the same job and same task. This time, when everybody went to work, one of the guys was not on site when they started the job. When he showed up, he wasn’t aware of the job status and made contact. This could have been prevented if everyone was present for the job planning. This reinforced that job planning is the most crucial element of any job. We can only work as good and safe as our game plan allows. And if we have no game plan, there is no telling what could take place.

Memorable Storm
Working in southern Arizona, we were subject to the monsoon season. Monsoons can bring high winds, severe dust storms, heavy rains and flooding. I remember being on call one afternoon during an approaching storm, and I was called out to a restoration. I went to the outage and got another call, completed the job and was heading home when my wife called to ask if I was going to make it home that night. She said it looked bad to the south and I told her to keep her fingers crossed.

Another call came in from dispatch and we had another outage south of town. I turned around and headed south. The storm hit and we had very high winds and a lot of rain. By the time the storm was done, we had just about every line worker out in the field chasing outages. We ended up with dozens of poles down, lines down in feed lots (which is the worst) and lines down everywhere. Our crews stayed out all night and into the next afternoon getting the power restored. The clean-up took several days after that.

Plans for the Future
The power industry has been very rewarding for me. I have worked with and met some of the best people in the world through this trade. I plan to stay working with the Colorado state-wide association and try to share the message of safety with all of our cooperative employees.

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