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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My First Line Trip

A long time ago, in a control room far, far away . . . . .
I was a wet-behind-the-ears dispatcher. Just got bumped up from being the 'numbers' and generation balancing guy, and moved to the desk where real stuff happens. Circuit breakers that I can control.

Three Mouse Clicks from Disaster!

There is nothing you can screw up on the numbers desk that cannot be fixed by an accountant with or without a checkbook.

But now, a mistake will darken cities or blow stuff up, or worse, injure or kill someone.

Yes sir, I made the Big Time. And I was Ready!

Here we go! Update the Log. Grumpy Dispatcher is on the Desk!

(boring hours of pretty much nothing ensue..........................)

Beeeeeeeeeeeeep! A 115kV Line trip! Action!

I jumped out of my chair almost as fast as I did the first hundred or so times my old-school red Minitor I "brick" went off when I was a jumpy new firefighter probie.

Whoops, wait, no turnouts to don here. I'll just sit back down and act like I meant to do that. Yeah.

Supervisor comes over. I'm really working under his eye, not on my own. But I've got my own desk. Yeah, I'm the man.

He suggests I try to close in and test the line.

Smoothly, I pull up the control window for one of the breakers. Act like you've done this before, make it look good.

Yes, I am The Man, I control big circuit breakers miles away!

"Select", "Close", "Confirm". Three Mouse Clicks.

Nothing happens.

Try it again, he says. Three clicks. Nothing.

Try the other end, he says, maybe the relays won't let you pick that line up dead from that end.

Click, click, click. This time it shows closed for a second or two, then opens again. Locked out.

A real outage! Drama!

I get to pull out the callout list and talk to the crews, and direct them in to patrol the line and save the day.

My shift ends before the crew arrives at the site. I pass along the info to my relief so he can finish the mop-up. My work here is done.


Back in that night. Ready to watch over the world for another 12 hours.

Guess what, rookie? Yeah, that line you tested three times? Yeah, those first two tests the breakers popped back open so fast they never showed closed on the console. Well, the conductor was laying on the guy wire, and you banged into the ground three times and started a nice fire. 25 acres last I heard. Aren't you a fireman? Way to go, rookie!



The intervening years since that new (and not yet Grumpy) dispatcher hit the desk have made this incident increasingly amusing over time....

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