Sometimes it's best to try to by-pass the bureaucracy and get in touch directly
with the linemen who actually do the work, or else the head honcho of the
Years ago I had a severe line noise problem that wiped out all the HF bands,
the AM BC band and even generated snow on the low band VHF TV channels. Using
a portable shortwave radio, I traced down the problem to a pole about a quarter
mile from my house. The arc was so bad that it was clearly visible from the
road as soon as the sun went down. The problem was a "hot clamp", a loose
connection between the main HV line and the branch that went down a secondary
road. The people who lived nearby said their TV was totally wiped out, but they
didn't suspect the power line to be causing the problem; they thought their TV
was on the blink and they couldn't afford to take it in for repair.
I called the power company. When I reported the problem, I gave them the
numbers that were tacked onto the pole, along with detailed directions to the
exact location of the problem. A few days later, the problem still hadn't gone
away, so I called them again. The person who took the call told me they had
sent someone out and they couldn't find anything wrong. So they sent the crew
out again, and once more, the problem didn't go away, and once again they told
me they had re-checked the pole and couldn't find anything wrong. This went on
for a couple of weeks.
Finally, one day I happened to get off early from work and came home in
mid-afternoon. Just as I was pulling up to the house I saw the power company
truck coming out of my driveway. I stopped him and asked if he was checking out
a radio interference complaint. He said he was, but couldn't find anything
wrong. I told him that the problem was not here but a quarter mile away, and
had him follow me, and I showed him the exact spot where the problem was. It
took the crew about 20 minutes to fix the problem. As usual, the clamp on the
hot wire had worked loose, a frequent failure with the mechanical clamps they
use on aluminium wire.
I asked the guy why they had come to my house instead of following the
directions I had given over the phone to find the pole in question with the
specific numbers on the pole. He said that the repair crew never gets that kind
of information when a problem is reported. The people in the central office
submitted a work order listing the generic nature of problem - radio
interference, and the customer's address. Nothing more; they just trash any
further details submitted by the complainant. The only information the crew
received was my home address and the nature of the problem, so they assumed the
problem was at the pole serving my house. He told me the best way to quickly
solve the problem next time would be to wait until after office hours and call
the emergency outage number, where the person answering the phone would be a
member of the actual repair crew working the night shift.
I tried that a couple of times when subsequent problems occurred, and it worked
each time. Once I called about 2 AM and after talking to the guy, explained
that it wasn't a real emergency since I was about to go to bed and that if they
couldn't get to it until the next day that would be OK. He told me that indeed
this WAS an emergency as far as they were concerned, because those "hot clamps"
can sometimes burn the main wire in two and then they have the danger of a live
wire on the ground where someone could accidentally come in contact with it, so
they would get out to fix it post haste.
The last incident I had was a couple of years ago. By then they had converted
to an automated outage reporting system, in which I had to call an out-of-state
800 number and couldn't talk to a real live human. I went through the voice
menu and reported the problem to their voice mail, but the next day called the
central office and asked to speak to the main supervisor and explained the
situation. He said they would get someone out "in a few days", but the problem
was gone by that evening and so far has not recurred.
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