East TN electric crews deploy to help with Hurricane Dorian aftermath

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – While thousands and thousands of people are evacuating Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, there are some who are rushing to help once the storm hits.

For several days first responders from across Tennessee have been deploying to the East Coast. Emergency response teams ranging from fuel support, to medical care, to utility crews traveled to help out residents.

KUB said they’ve released six contract crews to help with Hurricane Dorian damage.

More: East Tennesseans helping with Hurricane Dorian relief

Crews with Davis H. Elliot Electric left Knoxville at 6 a.m. last Friday. They’ve been stationed in Vero Beach, Florida.

“The storm didn’t hit here the way that they thought it was going to, but if it doesn’t hit here, I believe, we’ll be headed to North Carolina to assist them as well,” general foreman Paul Smith said.

Smith says their work depends on the severity of Hurricane Dorian.

“If it’s a really bad storm, say a (Category) 2 or 3 hits, we change out poles, pull wire, install transformers, do house services. It turns into a task at times.”

When electric crews get onsite, they go through safety training to learn the system and dangers with regional wildlife.

“Hydration is a big thing,” Smith said. “When you’re in Florida, it’s so hot and humid, you’ve got to make sure the guys are looking out for each other. Make sure that one another is drinking plenty of water.

“You’ve got to make sure the public is safe as well. You’ve got people coming up wanting to know when their power is coming back on. Their safety is just as high a priority as your men’s safety.”

Smith says he’s worked hurricane aftermath for years.

“(I) worked Hurricane Charley, Hurricane Katrina, Ivan, Frances, Jeanne and I can’t remember, I believe it was 2004, when the CAT 4 came through Florida and we actually spent 92 days in Florida.”

With all that time helping in storm recovery, Smith says he remembers the devastation.

“You can forget the jobs you’ve done but you never forget the faces of people, families, trying to dig through debris. It’s heartbreaking.”

Smith says it’s a waiting game until they get orders to deploy to a new location.

“You wait on the hurricane to hit.”

For more resources for Hurricane Dorian evacuees, information and how to help, you can click here.

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