In the middle of a snowy night, a rabid squirrel makes a mad dash across the highway, causing a pizza delivery vehicle to veer off the road into a power pole. The pole breaks at the base and falls into a nearby OPPD substation, knocking out power to half of Ashland, Neb.
Maybe that fictional scenario is a bit over the top. But OPPD’s Mandi Scott said she and her co-workers “handle crazy situations that come our way on an almost daily basis.”
A system operations specialist, Scott said there is no “typical” day in the dispatch office at OPPD’s Energy Control Center in midtown Omaha.
She and co-worker Rita Hatfield monitor OPPD’s Outage Management System (OMS). The system tracks issues based on customer phone calls, information from OPPD’s automated trouble-call system, and customer reports made via OPPD’s website and mobile apps.
“We dispatch troubleshooters to resolve issues the customers report, which can range from low-hanging wires to power outages,” Scott explained. “We dispatch line crews to calls, when needed. Crews can be required for transformer replacements, underground equipment repairs and anything else that a troubleshooter cannot perform on his own.”
Although Scott and Hatfield’s role does some dispatching, it’s more limited. Dispatchers are certified to issue safety clearances to crews working on electrical equipment.
“We understand that not having power is frustrating for our customers, but sometimes issues arise that are beyond our control, and this can lead to longer restoration times,” Scott said. “Our goal is always to get everyone’s power on as quickly and efficiently as possible, while also making sure that all of our troubleshooters and crews stay safe.
“We monitor follow-up / maintenance calls to make sure they are processed properly and sent to the correct departments or centers for future repairs. We also provide assistance and support to the dispatchers with anything that they may need, and about a million other things.
“You can start the day slow and steady – with no calls on the screen – and at the drop of a hat, we can have 1,500 people without power, a house fire that requires OPPD to cut the electricity and someone has crashed into a power pole.”
So how did Scott end up being part of this daily craziness?
“I had just left a longtime office management job, when a part-time clerk position opened up at OPPD’s Ashland center,” she said. “My stepfather is a retired lineman, so I grew up knowing that OPPD was a great company to work for. I jumped at the opportunity.”
After working part-time for 10 months, Scott started her current full-time position, which she has done since 2012.
“It takes a certain kind of person to be in this office, and it makes me proud that we all work so well together. We are like a well-oiled machine,” she said.
When asked what she likes best about her job, Scott said, “You never have the same day twice. Something new and different is always happening.”
In her spare time, Scott likes spending time with family, spoiling her six nieces and nephews, watching movies, reading a good book and writing.
Maybe she should write a book about the crazy circumstances she deals with at her job. With her positive attitude, we would expect the story to have a happy ending.
Something like: The pizza driver was unhurt, power was restored to Ashland after a few hours of repair work, and the mad squirrel was never heard from again.
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