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How the region’s electrical supply is maintained during stormy weather

PUBLISHED: 16:05 03 January 2018 | UPDATED: 12:00 08 January 2018

Linesman training at the UK Power Network training centre in Risby, near Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Archant

Linesman training at the UK Power Network training centre in Risby, near Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Archant

Archant

As the storm season takes hold and with the region recently hit by Eleanor, how does UK Power Networks ensure the electricity supply is maintained during the gales?

UK Power Network worker climbling a pylon. Picture: Archant UK Power Network worker climbling a pylon. Picture: Archant

UK Power Networks owns and looks after electricity cables and lines across the East of England, London and the South East - covering 29,000sq km.

The company closely monitors weather forecasts to model the potential impact of the storm based on predicted wind speeds so it can plan the necessary resources.

Trees and debris blown around by high winds is the most common cause of damage to overhead lines.

To prevent power cuts and to keep tree branches away from power lines, some £13m is invested across the region each year.

Ian Wilmshurst UK Power Network overhead lines trainer. Picture: Archant Ian Wilmshurst UK Power Network overhead lines trainer. Picture: Archant

Within the company every staff member has a storm role in addition to their main role.

Someone who works in finance may have been trained as a call handler to help with a increase in call numbers or may be trained as a scout who goes to check potential live damage.

MORE - Storm Eleanor causes disruption across Norfolk

A spokesman for the company said: “These storm roles mean we can boost our call takers to more than 900 in the event of a storm and also use external company support too.

“As well as receiving calls, we can proactively keep customers updated via text, phone, website and social media. Extra engineers, contractors, tree cutters, customer advisers and helicopter crews are put on alert to respond quickly if severe weather damages the network.”

UK Power Networks has two training centres, one in Risby, near Bury St Edmunds, and another in Sundridge, Kent.

Here more than 250 apprentices have been trained in the past five years and 66 are currently completing training.

MORE - Big clean up begins after Doris caused a day of destruction across Norfolk and rest of East Anglia region

Apprentices train to become jointers, linesmen or fitters.

Ian Wilmshurst, overhead lines trainer, said workers can spend long hours up a pylon fixing a power cut.

He said: “Normal on storm days when we have had storm Doris on the 1987 storm, guys are up in the air excluding break times most of the day.

“Day light hours start early in the mornings, five o’clock in the morning, and finishing near midnight.”

The freephone number to call in the event of a power cut is 105.

UK Power Networks also has an interactive map showing details of power cuts.

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