As Fran Forehand stood behind a podium outside of the Jeffrey Vaden Chavis House at the Southeastern Firefighters Burn Foundation, she gestured toward a row of linemen.
“It is your shoulders that we all stand on,” Forehand, vice president of the East Region office for Georgia Power, said Wednesday. “I could not be more proud of the utility work that you do every single day on behalf of us.”
That work included service to more than 8,500 homes that were left without power following Tropical Storm Irma. The storm caused 1.5 million outages in the state but workers were able to restore 90 percent of power to residents within four days. But as restoration efforts launched, Forehand said she received “a call that nobody wants to receive.”
“One of our contract lineman had received a burn and was treated at this center in Augusta,” Forehand said during the special tribute to the workers at the burn foundation.“During storms you get out of bed, you leave your families and you hope and pray that they’re going to be okay for the sake of others, and I can’t think of any other selfless act than that.”
The foundation unveiled at the tribute a new Georgia license plate to honor the men and women who serve as electric utility line workers. The “Thank A Lineman” license plate bears the image of a utility line worker on top of a utility pole with an outline of the state in the backdrop.
“It’s tedious work and long hours so I think it is good and I’m honored,” Kevin Watkins, a line worker for Georgia Power said following the unveiling.
The plate was part of a two year effort that led to House Bill 260. The bill was sponsored in the House by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), carried in the Senate by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) and signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal in May.
“Those are the kinds of things that we like to do because it puts a lot of emphasis and attention on those men and women that work across the state and put their lives on the line every day and night just like the firemen, EMS and police officiers,” Gooch said Wednesday. “You’re the first responders that come out in the middle of the night after a storm. While everyone else runs for shelter you and all of our other first responders run into the danger.”
All proceeds from the plate will benefit the foundation in Augusta to provide assistance to burn patients and their families at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctor’s Hospital. Electric Cities of Georgia, Georgia EMC and Georgia Power worked together on the new license plate.
“I’m super excited about this project,” Linda McKnight, CEO and president of the Southeastern Firefighter Burn Foundation said. “It has been two years in the making and a lot of people came together to get these three power entities all working on the same issues that we have here.”
Those interested in purchasing the new “Thank A Lineman” license plate can visit www.sfbf.net for more information. The first 1,000 registrants to give a minimum $25 donation to the foundation will get the $25 manufacturing fee waived.