HUGO, Minn. (WCCO) — Sitting in a classroom, you can learn how to rescue someone from an electrical pole. But for 12 Air Force Reserve electricians, there’s only one way to practice: strapping on climbing belts and gaffs and heading up a pole.

“Obviously, we don’t want to be the second victim,” says Xcel Energy instructor Ben Smith.

He’s one of the senior technical trainers at the company’s state-of-the-art natural gas and electrical facility in Hugo.

“Not every rescue we perform is an electrocution or electrical contact,” Smith said. “It could be somebody blew out a knew or their hip, of it might be a heart attack.”

Whatever the emergency it is, the job of the co-worker is to head up the pole and perform the challenging rescue.

One-by-one on Monday, the electricians with the 934th Civil Engineering Squadron scurried up a power pole. Using rope and technique, they had to lower a training dummy safely to the ground.

“We need to know how to get that man out of trouble and down to the ground, then administer first aid and so forth,” instructor Jeff Braa said.

But while line crews climb poles, they also work from large hydraulic bucket trucks. A medical emergency up top would require taking control from the ground.

“It’s kind of like riding a bike. It’s been years since I’ve trained in this and gone up and down poles a few times. But it all comes back,” said Sgt. Benjamin Bunnell.

It’s critically important because these electricians are in a line of work where accidents can be serious. Having the skills to respond quickly can be a lifesaver.

“It’s important,” Braa said, “because it could happen.”

Bill Hudson