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Monday, February 15, 2010

Back in the Control Center

I have returned from a weeklong training session. I had a lot of fun, picked up a handful of CEH's, and met a lot of folks I often only hear on the phone or radio.

The world of power dispatchers is an exclusive one. There just aren't that many of us, you see. Last I heard, there are only about 3,000 NERC-certified dispatchers in all of North America, and something less than half of those are actually in dispatching. The rest are supervisory-types, power marketers, engineers, and other peripherally-involved utility employees who are not required to have it, but feel that the NERC cert helps them do their jobs better or looks good on a resume. Really, the NERC cert is all but useless even to us actual dispatchers, as very very little of what is learned in the certification process is ever used on the job anyway. The CEH stuff brings a little value, though, once you're in the club.

I have two NERC certificates (a rarity in the industry, since one of mine superseded the other anyway). Nonetheless, owning two NERC cert serial numbers does look pretty good on the ol' resume.

This small dispatcher world is amusing sometimes. One of the Reliability Coordinators (persons who oversee multiple dispatch centers) I was sitting next to works in a facility about 1,400 miles away from my control center. He knew a dispatcher I worked with at my last dispatch gig, which was over 1,000 miles farther away from his office. Not just 'knew' him, either, but knew his nickname and had played golf with him. This RC also works with another RC-in-training who I helped train as a dispatcher in my previous job years ago and miles away.

It gets better. This same RC also works with another guy at that RC center who happens to be the very guy who trained my Dad (the Smooth Substation Operator) when he joined his small municipal utility decades ago. Yeah, Dad retired a few years ago, so you know this dude is crusty! Still going, though. Amazing.

It gets better. This same RC knows, from his previous power company job in the midwest, a dispatcher with whom I served as a firefighter in my first fire agency many many years ago. From before either he or I became dispatchers ourselves. How cool is that? Here's two guys working a midsized midwestern fire department, who end up going separate ways, and through turns of fate both end up as dispatchers at companies far away from each other. Really, it should come as no surprise that we would end up knowing the same people. So here, after all these years, I get to reconnect with a firefighter friend who is now also a power dispatcher.

Our small power dispatcher world is a pretty neat club to be a part of.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. I see it is high time for another tutorial, and I've got some other things on my mind from my time off. I'm back now, so you'll be hearing more of my mindless drivel in the next few days.


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