Fall Foliage, Ovando, Montana

System Reliability Program


Lineman working in bucket truckOur SMART (Strategic Maintenance and Reliability Taskforce) Program, developed in 2013, was put in place to determine the causes of short, nuisance blinks and outages. This program, which involves a pole-to-pole inspection of our entire system every 10 years, has considerably reduced the frequency and length of outages.

During inspection, crews install wildlife protection, replace aging porcelain cutouts and lightening arrestors, check connections and mark trees that are encroaching on the lines for clearing.







What Work We Are Conducting

  • Inspect each pole from the ground to the conductors
  • Open and inspect all underground cabinets
  • Change out cracked or broken insulators and cutouts
  • Check for loose connections
  • Repair fraying conductors
  • Install guards to prevent animal related outages
  • Install raptor protection to prevent nesting on poles
  • Trim or remove vegetation inside the right-of-way
  • Replace poles reaching their end of life
  • Install or replace lightning arrestors

The work our linemen perform includes a comprehensive inspection of each piece of equipment such as the wires, insulators, transformers, cutouts and any connections.

When a lineman identifies an item needing attention, work is often performed on-the-spot. More complex issues may require a larger crew to complete the identified issue, requiring a future visit.

How We Identify an Area For Attention

Each month, reports are generated showing member outage minutes for each substation on our system. The focus of the SMART Program is to target areas with the greatest need, according to these monthly reports. Crews will begin at the area of concern and work their way back to the substation. If inclement weather is a factor, crews will choose a stopping point and move to the next critical area on the list.

When You Can Expect to See Results

Depending on the location and nature of the work, results may be evident the next time the wind blows, or until the SMART team works their way to the issue.

Tree Trimming

Due to our mountainous service areas, trees and vegetation continue to be a primary cause of service interruptions. Tree branches that come in contact with power lines can cause small (or large) sections of line to go down.

MEC’s service territory is widespread, which means it can take several years to reach all areas needing attention. Having the cooperation of our members when it comes to allowing crews to trim or remove trees is a key to them doing their jobs effectively and efficiently.

Impact On Our Members

Typically, our SMART team is able to do their work without impacting our members. If scheduled work is required, MEC will notify impacted members, by phone or mail, and explain the task at hand, and what they can anticipate. Occasionally, the team will find an issue requiring immediate attention. In these rare, but often necessary cases, members may receive minimal or no advance notice of an outage.

How You Can Help

While it is not necessary for you to be present while work is conducted, there are a few things that you can do to help:

Please refrain from attaching equipment to poles, such as satellite dishes, signage or basketball hoops. These items not only make it hard for the linemen to climb our poles, but exposed nails and screws can cause injuries. If our crew encounters unauthorized attachments, they will be removed and placed near the base of the pole.

In addition, if work cannot be performed due to aggressive animals, an appointment will need to be scheduled when the animal(s) can be properly restrained.