Celebrating our Arborists
As trees are celebrated globally today on Arbor Day, let’s take a look at how Jackson EMC takes care of trees every day. While working to power the homes and businesses of our members, it’s not uncommon that trees may pose a risk to providing reliable electricity.
The number one cause of power outages is tree limbs coming in contact with power lines. Properly maintaining the area around power lines reduces the likelihood of a prolonged outage caused by trees. It’s also important to keep trees around power lines trimmed for safety. Trees are excellent conductors of electricity. If a tree has grown into a power line, electricity can travel to the ground and create an electrocution hazard.
Keeping vegetation a proper distance from power lines while keeping trees healthy is where arborists come in.
Jackson EMC has five certified arborists who are licensed to work with arboriculture:
- Chad Hemphill, Operations Superintendent
- Todd Benton, Right of Way Crew Leader
- Josh Martin, Right of Way Crew Leader
- Justin Cash, Right of Way Crew Leader
- Mike Nicholson, Right of Way Crew Leader
We asked a few of our arborists about their experience as certified arborists with Jackson EMC and why it’s an important role to providing reliable electricity.
Q: Why is it important that Jackson EMC have certified arborists with its crews?
Todd Benton: “By having a certified arborist on the job daily, I feel it lets the member know we take our jobs seriously and that we take great care and concern when on their property trimming their right of way.”
Mike Nicholson: “Jackson EMC trims 15 feet on each side of the power line. Utility companies mostly trim for clearance instead of appearance, but we try to use ISA-approved trimming practices when we can. I use my arborist knowledge to show the crews when to take more or stop cutting.”
Q: How is using your arborist skills for a utility company similar or different from other arborist jobs?
Josh Martin: “The trimming we do at Jackson EMC is considered utility pruning. It requires some pruning methods to maintain the integrity of the system that might not be used in other areas of arboriculture. Trimmers that work for a utility also must be trained to work around the energized lines.”
Mike Nicholson: “The main difference is that our crews trim around energized lines that carry 14,400 volts. Knowing how different trees react to topping or peeling back limbs is very important. Our goal is to try and never knock out service for our members.”
Q: What did the process look like for you to become a certified arborist?
Josh Martin: “To become an ISA [International Society of Arboriculture] certified arborist, it is required to have some experience and be approved by ISA. I worked on a right of way crew for about 4.5 years and really enjoyed it. When Jackson EMC offered a class that Georgia EMC put together for anyone that wanted to become an arborist, I signed up. The exam was tough, but the class helped me get ready for the exam.”
Justin Cash: “The process started with acquiring a certified arborist study guide. Then, studying that book for several weeks and taking an exam. I had to make above a 76 or higher to pass for the certification.”
Q: What do you enjoy about using your arborist skills for a utility company?
Todd Benton: “I enjoy talking to members about their trees and answering questions they may have about them, or how it's related to what we might be doing there in regard to safely trimming their right of way.”
Justin Cash: “I enjoy learning as much as I possibly can about arboriculture.”
Q: Is there a part of operating with arboriculture you enjoy the most?
Mike Nicholson: “I like everything about arboriculture and trees in general. I also enjoy working outside. I like helping our members make the right decision on what type of tree and where to plant it also.”
Josh Martin: “I enjoy all the people I get to meet and the crews I get to work with.”
Q: How does being a certified arborist for Jackson EMC contribute to Jackson EMC’s mission (“To exceed our members' expectations with reliable, courteous and personalized service”)?
Justin Cash: “As an arborist for Jackson EMC, I contribute in every way to our mission statement. I take pride in what I do for our members by keeping our outage times to a minimum from causes such as vegetation and tree hazards. I also take pride in keeping our members safe, and I do that every day when I interact with each member and explain and act on our mission statement.”
Todd Benton: “By having ISA-certified arborists there every day with the trimming crews, it reassures the members that we understand and care how the trees are trimmed near their power lines. We want them to feel it’s done safely and efficiently so that we are providing exceptional member service to each and every member.”
Becoming an Arborist
To become an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) certified arborist, one must either gain at least three years of experience working in a natural environment as a tree consultant, plant healthcare technician, or landscaping professional, earn an associate arborist degree with a minimum of two courses directly related to arboriculture and two years of work experience in the field, or earn a bachelor’s degree with a minimum of four arboriculture courses and one year of work experience. This Arbor Day, join us in celebrating the hard work our certified arborists have put into keeping our trees safe and healthy.