By Greg Argos
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — If the power is out, hopefully PECO’s underground mechanics are already below your feet. But, before the mechanics can work in the manhole underground, they must go through an extensive training.
From de-energizing power, to splicing and coupling, the nine apprentices in class spend the first few weeks in the classroom.
“Some different technologies in splicing,” said Mark Sappington, PECO’s Senior Training Specialist. “Heatshrink technologies. Cold shrink technologies. So we kind of do a host of training everything from the old school, to the newest and greatest stuff that’s out there.”
After all of that training, it’s time to go to the office. For the men and women, who work as PECO underground mechanics, that office is some 11 feet below ground.
The training is all done in an above ground manhole.
“We try to simulate a real time training in a manhole. So, we have folks who work at the top of the manhole, which would be at the street level, and then we have a few folks, inside the manhole, who are pairing what is simulated as a damaged cable,” said Sappington.
Despite the manholes being a little larger than the average manhole in the city, they replicate a real one in almost every aspect. The key word being, almost.
“We have snakes, spiders, cockroaches, mice, rats, a little bit of everything. There could be possums in there. Any small animal trying to get out of the elements could find their way into the manhole,” Sappington explained.
Above ground, there is always at least one PECO mechanic who supervises and can winch up a fellow worker in trouble. Below ground are the workers who are busy trying to get power back on.
“Driving into work every day and knowing that in a few weeks, the whole skyline, I’ll be part of lighting up the whole city,” said apprentice Phillip Bennink.