Not Just Another Trouble Call
Not Just Another Trouble Call
The call came into Southern California Edison troubleman William Voelker last month like so many others. SCE had received a report of low electrical wires and a potential hazard at a Manhattan Beach duplex where a reroofing job was underway.
Roofers had discovered electrical wires going directly into the house, straight under roofing shingles. There was no weather head — the cap and vertical metal pipe that normally protrudes from a residential roof to protect water from traveling along the electrical wires and entering the electrical meter and panel.
Adding to the situation, the electrical lines were intertwined with metal scaffolding erected next to the house.
“When I got there, I saw that it was a major hazard,” said Voelker, a 17-year SCE veteran. “I’ve seen some pretty ratty stuff, but this was bad. A wall was opened up, so it looked to me like they were also going to do a new electrical panel upgrade, so I called our Planning department and they didn’t have any information on a job going on at that house.”
That raised suspicions that the property owner might be trying to do the jobs without necessary permits or approvals. The entire situation was dangerous, so Voelker immediately shut off the power to the building.
He left a voicemail with the property owner, briefly explaining why her rental property tenants were suddenly powerless. He also left his cellphone number and braced for what he assumed would be an angry call from the property owner.
“I got the message on my phone from the SCE gentleman that my power was off. I called him back, and it was almost 5:30 or 6 in the evening, and he answered his phone!” said 70-year-old Susan Donahoe, who owns the duplex.
It turns out she was far from angry, just surprised because she had obtained all the necessary permits for the reroofing job and was not planning electrical panel work. She had the scaffolding erected to protect workers from falling off a ladder.
“He said he had to turn off the power because it was a safety issue,” Donahoe said, adding she “knows nothing about electricity or weather heads,” only that the roof had been that way since she bought the duplex 37 years ago.
“I felt so lucky that the place didn’t catch fire,” Donahoe said.
Voelker told her: “Don’t worry, everything will be fine. Get your electrician to come out there to fix it and call me when you’re done, and I’ll come turn the power back on for you.”
Donahoe arranged for her electrician to fix the wires and install a weather head the next morning. She called Voelker to let him know, and he said he would check out the repair and restore her power in a few minutes.
“My electrician said, ‘Yeah right, sure, that guy’s never going to show up in a few minutes. Good luck on that, you’ll see him in a couple of days’” Donahoe said. “And sure enough, 25 minutes later, here comes the big Edison truck right around the corner.”
Voelker inspected the repair and quickly restored power to Donahoe’s property.
“I thanked him profusely and said, ‘Here, I got you this Starbucks gift card.’ And he said, ‘No, it’s my job. I’m just glad it’s safe now, and there won’t be a fire,’” Donahoe said. “And I told him it’s not your job to answer your phone at 6 p.m. and interrupt your dinner or time with your family. You were there, and you really kept your word!”
Donahoe was so impressed that she Googled “who is the CEO of Southern California Edison” and started to make phone calls to try to get in touch. She ended up reaching a member of the Corporate Communications team.
“You just don’t find too many great, compassionate people these days,” Donahoe said. “I wanted to make sure somebody knew this person and the incredible heart he has.”
Voelker, for his part, is struggling to understand what the fuss is all about.
“I’m just out here to do my job. The company pays me pretty well, so I’m not going to accept anything extra. And she was such a nice lady!” Voelker said.
He did get a note from SCE President and CEO Steve Powell, thanking him for doing the right thing, which is something Voelker strives for every day.
To learn more about careers at SCE, visit edisoncareers.com.