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Seattle City Light Dispatchers Oversee Large Operation, Still Provide Personal Service

At the center of Seattle City Light's operations is a team of 24 dispatchers at Seattle City Light’s System Control Center, who often work one-on-one with customers in times of need.

 This is the latest in an occasional series of posts featuring some of the interesting jobs and work at Your Seattle City Light.

Photo of dispatcher.

One of Seattle City Light’s power dispatchers takes a call at the System Control Center.

Seattle City Light supplies more than 1 million residents of the greater Seattle area with power. There are more than 84,000 streetlights, 410,000 customer meters and 2,500 miles of electrical distribution circuits to maintain.

At the center of those daily operations is a team of 24 dispatchers at Seattle City Light’s System Control Center, who often work one-on-one with customers in times of need. Watch a video about their work on our new YouTube channel here.

Power dispatchers route electricity from power generation plants through high voltage transmission lines to substations where it is then sent at lower voltage by feeders then laterals and service lines to homes and businesses.

They also work on the technical side of customer relations. During the day, they receive phone calls from Customer Care with jobs that need to be completed after customers have called in to report a problem.

“Dispatchers serve as the point of contact after normal working hours.  So when a customer has an outage to their home, we are the people picking up the phones to help them out,” said Frank McDonald, assistant power dispatcher at the distribution center.

Dispatchers distribute the work assignments to the necessary teams or line crews  that are trained to handle particular situations, such as a power outage, an unsafe pole, a wire down, or a streetlight outage.

Power dispatchers also maintain a system map of where any outages are located, and where crews are being sent. This allows them to monitor system status and whether one crew will be affecting another crew’s work.

A typical day around the System Control Center for a dispatcher includes managing seven or eight projects to support energy delivery operations. Keeping an up-to-date map of crew locations is fast-paced and always changing, and there is no room for mistakes.

“I think everyone takes their jobs very seriously here in the control room,” McDonald said. “To do our work the very safest it can be done requires a great deal of attention to detail.”

At the end of all this hard work and seriousness, McDonald still gets that warm fuzzy feeling when he is able to personally help a customer through a technical situation.

“You can hear the relief and happiness in their voice,” he said. “Honestly, when you get a heartfelt thank you from the customer, it lets me know I have done all I can for them.”

Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public electric utility in the United States. It has some of the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.