Quick response, smart meter save lives

A Rose Hill, Iowa, couple is lucky to be alive and thankful for the quick work of one of our employees. Their home exploded on an early morning in May, and their first-floor bedroom collapsed into the basement, trapping them in the rubble. 

Right away, the home’s smart meter sent an outage alert to our dispatch center, and Alex Schwenke, a Combo Service Mechanic, went to check on it. He was the first help to arrive.

“I heard the people yelling from inside the home and called 911 to get help. I think maybe the neighbors didn’t hear it because there was a lot of lightning and thunder,” Schwenke said. “I praise the smart meter here. That’s what sent me to the home.”

The homeowners escaped with only minor injuries.

This isn’t the first time our smart meter system provided the earliest detection of an outage that turned out to be an emergency. Earlier this year, we received an outage alert in the middle of the night in Washington, Iowa. We woke the customer up to ask about the outage. 

The shed next to their home, with a smart meter, had caught fire and lost power. The customer saw the fire and called the fire department.

Smart meters aren’t designed to detect or report on emergencies, but they instantly and automatically report power outages. We’ve installed them for nearly all of our Iowa customers, and most of them are already in service. We expect the remainder to be operational later this year. To learn more, visit alliantenergy.com/smartmeter.

Alliant Energy and tech schools: A great partnership

This spring, the first-ever class of utility natural gas techs graduated from Moraine Park Technical College in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Fifteen students completed the nine-month, hands-on program. On graduation day, 12 of them already had jobs. 

Their proud instructor? Our retiree Steve Logan, who both planned and taught the curriculum for the new program. “It was a feeling of accomplishment and recognition to pass on the things that I’d learned in 40-plus years at Alliant Energy,” he said. 

But it wasn’t just the graduating students Steve was proud of. He was proud of Alliant Energy, too, for critical support in getting the program off the ground. 

“Without the donation from Alliant Energy, we would not have been able to put a shovel in the ground [for the new program and building],” said Bonnie Baerwald, Moraine Park president. Alliant Energy also donated trucks and a trailer, as well as other equipment and employee time to speak to students. 

“They were a true partner with us to make the students successful,” Logan said. 

Moraine Park is just one school where we’re investing in students pursuing technical training. This year, we’ve given $1,000 scholarships to 37 students at nine technical and community colleges across Iowa and Wisconsin. The scholarships help students pursue programs like wind energy, gas utility construction and electrical power distribution. 

Not only does this benefit the students; it builds our future workforce. Many Alliant Energy hires come directly from the trade schools we support. 

This type of partnership reflects one of the key lessons that tech school students learn: teamwork.

As Logan put it, “In this kind of industry, you’re not a lone wolf. You work as a crew. It’s important to learn the responsibilities of being part of a crew: how to work safely and how to work together.” 

Learn more about how we support students at alliantenergy.com/scholarships.