Danny Branneman knew he wanted to be an electrical worker after his dad showed him how to build a circuit board with a light bulb and batteries for a 4-H project.
“From then on, I knew I wanted to do that kind of work,” Branneman said.
Learning the Trade
Branneman knew what he wanted to do, but he did not know how to get the proper training until Chris Thorsen, Training Director from IBEW Local 16’s Apprenticeship Training Center in Evansville, Indiana gave a presentation during career day at Mitchell High School. After graduating in 2002, he applied for the apprenticeship but did not get in on his first try and had to wait until the following year.
In the meantime, Branneman went to work for Snedegar Construction in Bloomington, Indiana where he first learned about working with high voltage.
When Branneman began his apprenticeship a year later, he continued to work, but needed to drive two hours after a work day to attend his classes. For the next five years, Branneman would attend his classes twice a week after work. Classes would last until 11 p.m. and then Branneman would drive two hours back home only to get up for work at 4:30 in the morning for his job.
“During my apprenticeship I started working in coal-fired power plants and that’s where I got into doing high voltage splicing,” Branneman said. “It’s extremely dangerous, but I always felt confident. For whatever reason, it never bothered me. You just need to pay attention to what you are doing.”
Specializing in Extra High Voltage
After the apprenticeship Branneman took a job with General Cable, which flew him to Montereau, France for a month-long certification program in Extra High Voltage at Silec Cable. He became the youngest person to become a factory certified installation technician at the company. The program teaches the skills needed to work on cables that can carry up to 500,000 volts, which provide power to entire cities.
Once certified, Branneman worked for several different contractors, but continued to work with extra high voltage.
“It’s extremely specialized and I wanted to learn how the big boys do it,” Branneman said. “Only a few places have the equipment and knowledge to successfully do it.”
In the beginning of 2012, Branneman became the High Voltage Underground Transmission Superintendent for Hawkeye, LLC in Hauppauge, New York on Long Island.
Brian Kalwicz of Haugland Energy Group in Plainview, New York worked with Danny and acted as his mentor. Kalwicz said Danny is not only a quick learner, but willing to learn.
“Dan is a very dedicated person who is attentive to details,” Kalwicz said. “He approaches each project with professionalism.”
The Line Life
Branneman often works long days or needs to travel to other locations. After Superstorm Sandy Branneman put in 16 hour days, seven days a week for a month. With 90% of Long Island without power, bucket trucks were being flown in from as far as California and about 11,000 line professionals came to New York to help.
Danny Branneman, certified in high voltage, works with Superconductor.
“The average person takes electricity extremely for granted,” Branneman said.
Branneman says that linemen need to be willing to go where there is work. He has traveled across the United States for jobs, from Virginia to California to Texas.
His wife Tiffany, whom he met while in high school, always moved around with Branneman.
“It’s always nice to have someone to come home to,” Branneman said. “There were times when I was gone for 21 days and could only come home once a month, but she hung in there.”
Working around high voltage poses many risks, but other aspects of a lineman’s job are also risky. Whether working from heights or in a manhole, conditions need to be continuously monitored.
Every day, Branneman’s job involves pulling extremely heavy high voltage power cables underground. The cables can be 6” in diameter and the reels can weigh up to 100,000 pounds. Some jobs can require 3,000 feet of lead cable to be pulled where tensions can reach 30,000 pounds.
“If that rope breaks, it’s bad news,” Branneman said.
Although he has never seen it happen, he knows the dangers all too well. Others on his team have seen teeth knocked out or broken bones.
However, these dangers do not compare to when his wife told him they were expecting their first child this June.
“I can work around high voltage all day, but as soon as she told me she was pregnant, that’s a whole different ball game,” Branneman said.