Soon linemen will pack up their tools, load their trucks and make a road trip to Kansas City for the International Lineman's Rodeo. For the last 26 years, this event has allowed linemen to showcase their skills in front of family and friends and learn more about the line trade.

Fortunately, the annual event is practically right in my backyard. My family and I live about a mile from the convention center, and a short 30-minute drive to the rodeo grounds. For the last few years, I've enjoyed meeting linemen from around the world and learning more about the utility industry. This year is no exception. I plan on attending both the rodeo and the expo, and I'd love to meet you and your crew. If you see me browsing the latest products at the expo or roaming the rodeo grounds, please introduce yourself and your crew, tell me what projects you're working on and what kind of stories you'd like to see in a future Electric Utility Operations section.

I'm sure many of you already have October 14-16 marked on your calendars, but if not, make sure you plan to attend. You don't want to miss your opportunity to learn about the latest tools and technology and to network with other linemen. By registering for the event, you not only can participate in your favorite events like the barbecue, safety conference, banquet, rodeo and conference, but you can participate in a brand-new outdoor expo, as well.

Educational Expos

In today's slow economy, utilities are looking for ways to boost their linemen's productivity without sacrificing their safety on the job. One way in which they can improve their workers' efficiency is by investing in the latest tools.

To help linemen discover the newest products on the market, the International Lineman's Rodeo offers a two-day expo on October 15 and 16 at the Overland Park Convention Center in Overland Park, Kansas. Linemen can browse the aisles, pick up brochures and test out new tools and equipment from more than 80 vendors.

In addition to searching for productivity-boosting tools, utilities are trying to find ways to more effectively respond to natural disasters, severe storms and other emergencies. To help these companies, the International Lineman's Rodeo is presenting its first Disaster Relief Expo. The outdoor event will be from noon to 5 p.m. on Thursday, October 15, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, October 16.

During this free event, linemen can visit with vendors that supply emergency-service products and services, such as catering, sleeping quarters, laundry facilities, showers and generation. In addition, they can see how a turnkey base camp operation is set up during an emergency situation and learn how utilities can effectively provide accommodations for their crews and offer mutual assistance help. To participate in the event, linemen must either sign up to attend the rodeo and expo, fill out a form at www.linemansrodeokc.com/relief.pdf, or register on site.

Striving for Safety

Linemen all have the same mission — to go home safely at the end of each day. For the last three years, the International Lineman's Rodeo has included a one-and-a-half-day safety conference to help linemen protect themselves and their coworkers. This free event features roundtable discussions, speaker presentations and training demonstrations.

This year's lineup includes such sessions as a personal injury story from Mike Moore of DTE Energy and a roundtable discussion on successes and failures. Speakers will offer presentations on grounding, the effect of electricity on the body, and the proper usage, inspection and maintenance of hoists.

Competition and Camaraderie

Along with the outdoor and indoor expos and the safety conference, linemen can look forward to the cornerstone of the event — the rodeo. About 3,000 people are expected to attend the rodeo and expo this year.

Even if you are not competing in this year's event, make sure you travel to Kansas City to cheer on your coworkers. Many linemen look forward to the day of the rodeo all year long, and they need your support. Last year, as I talked to dozens of linemen in the pouring rain on the day of the rodeo, I learned just how important the event is to them. During these few days out of the year, linemen get to truly celebrate the line trade and be in the spotlight.

Attention readers: If you're going to be at the rodeo and have a story to tell, feel free to drop me an e-mail at afischbach@tdworld.com. I'd love to meet you in person and hear about your latest project, labor-saving techniques or ideas for future articles.