What are the Main Principles of Disaster Preparedness?

Disasters may not be totally avoidable—particularly natural disasters—but we can reduce their impact through proper disaster preparedness.

Cities, state governments, utility companies and commercial businesses can improve their resilience to disasters with the right risk management and disaster preparedness strategies. Utility companies in particular need to think ahead because of the common weather events that often interrupt vital services such as electricity.

Disaster preparedness can be approached methodically and strategically. By taking a step-by-step approach, disaster preparedness can be more successful.

The Four Phases of Disaster Preparedness

One common model for disaster preparedness involves four phases. These are the phases that every organization and entity will typically go through in relation to disasters. The phases are mitigation, preparation or preparedness, response and recovery. (Some models also add a first preliminary step, which is prevention.) Here is a look at the four main phases of disaster preparedness:

Disaster Preparedness Phase 1: Mitigation

As mentioned above, some models for disaster preparedness include an initial separate step called “prevention,” but in our view, mitigation also includes prevention. The idea is to prevent emergencies if possible and proactively mitigate their impact.

Mitigation needs to happen not only before the disaster takes place, but long before the disaster is on its way. It is not “mitigation” to scramble to prepare once you know a hurricane is barreling down on your building. Rather, mitigation is about the strategies and plans that are put into place well before hurricane season.

Disaster Preparedness Phase 2: Preparation (Preparedness)

Phase 2 of disaster preparedness is all about taking action on the mitigation strategies to get the organization or entity prepared for the potential or coming emergency.

Certainly, there can be a fine line between mitigation and preparedness, but preparation may be seen as being more expedient to an actual threat. For example, if your utility company has a plan to proactively remove hazardous trees prior to hurricane season, that might be filed under “mitigation.” If the utility company is actively removing tree branches that are at risk of falling on power lines because a hurricane is forecasted to hit the area, that’s better filed under preparedness.

Disaster Preparedness Phase 3: Response

Phase 3 of disaster preparedness falls after the major event has taken place. In effect, it’s more about how well-prepared you were, because the preparation period is now over! The response phase is all about how an organization deals with the immediate aftermath of a major disaster such as a fire, tornado, snowstorm or hurricane.

For utility companies, a major part of the response after a natural disaster will likely be tree clearing. Trees will need to be cleared from power lines and roads, which is where a tree service provider like Townsend Tree comes in.

Disaster Preparedness Phase 4: Recovery

After the disaster has hit and following the immediate aftermath, the recovery phase occurs. This is the period of time in which rebuilding happens after a disaster. The immediate risks and urgency of the response phase has passed, and things have calmed down, but there is still a lot of work to do to rebuild.

The recovery phase can be a long phase and run anywhere from six months to a year or even more. During the recovery phase, it is often a good idea to start working on phase 1 again, mitigation, and start planning ahead for the next disaster.

Utility Companies and Natural Disasters

More and more, it seems like a week doesn’t go by without another natural disaster occurring in the United States. We seem to go seamlessly from blizzards to fire season to hurricane season to floods to tornadoes these days.

Utility companies in particular are perpetually under the gun to keep services up and running despite the continuous bad weather.

One of the most common problems with a natural disaster, but one that can also be easily mitigated, is the issue of trees. Trees burn, ice up, collapse after a flood and blow down in tornadoes and hurricanes. Unfortunately, trees are also very common around power lines that are necessary for electrical services. But one of the easiest ways to mitigate damage from a disaster is simply through proper tree management. Trees that are well maintained and pruned around power lines will be less likely to cause problems during a windy thunderstorm or snowstorm.

Of course, no amount of tree pruning is going to stop a category five hurricane from blowing a tree completely down. Nor will many trees be able to survive an EF5 wedge tornado. But some of these events can also be mitigated through proactive assessment of trees to remove old, damaged and diseased trees that might be more likely to blow away during high wind events.
We can’t live without trees, nor would we want to, so making sure that the trees that grace our streets are healthy and secure is one of the best ways to reduce damage from a major environmental disaster.

Better Disaster Preparedness with a Quality Tree Service Provider

Townsend Tree is a tree service provider with a stellar track record in disaster preparedness and disaster recovery. With innovative technology and knowledgeable personnel, we offer the best in vegetation management, power line clearance and storm damage relief. Our hazard tree program involves a proactive inventory of potentially dangerous trees that are at risk of downing power lines and damaging people and property.

Townsend Tree’s headquarters are in Muncie, Indiana, near Indianapolis, and our workforce spans more than 30 states. With over 75 years of service, Townsend Tree has become a leading tree service provider known for quality and customer care.

Townsend Tree Service is a leading, multi-state provider of expert tree trimming, line clearing, and vegetation management services. We have extensive expertise preparing for major disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes, winter storms and more. Learn more about our integrated vegetation management services here.

Who Pays for Hurricane Clean Up in the United States?

Hurricanes are one of the worst disasters in terms of loss of life and damage to property. Unfortunately, some scientists are speculating that 2022 may be another bad year for hurricanes because of warmer water in the Gulf of Mexico.

Governments, municipalities and utility companies should be prepared and on alert for massive storm damage. Hurricane cleanup, including debris clearing and damaged tree removal, should ideally be budgeted for in advance, if possible.

The Risk of Hurricanes in 2022 and Beyond

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1-November 30. While the chance for hurricanes usually peaks around early- to mid-September, August can also be a big month for hurricanes. While most hurricanes hitting the United States happen during the months of June to November, 3% can still occur beyond the typical hurricane season.

Will 2022 end up being a record-breaking year for hurricanes? We won’t fully know if this year is record setting until hurricane season passes, but it looks like 2022’s weather conditions are especially good for massive tropical storms.

Why? Scientists have noted that the “Loop Current,” which is a stream of warmer water that comes up from the Gulf Stream current and warms the Gulf of Mexico, had already traveled far into the Gulf of Mexico by mid-May, much farther than usual.

A warmer Loop Current has the potential to feed larger storms and create massive hurricanes. Hurricanes need warmer water if they want to grow.

Unfortunately, the 2022 Loop Current pattern mirrors the path of the Gulf current in 2005, which is when the deadly Hurricane Katrina hit. Thus, the Northern Gulf Coast, including areas between Texas, Louisiana and Florida, are a great risk for massive storms throughout this hurricane season.

The Costs of Deadly Hurricanes

Hurricanes are extremely costly, both from a human life perspective and economically. According to NOAA, between 2019 and 2021 alone, the United States experienced 56 weather and climate disasters with costs exceeding $1 billion.

Tropical cyclones or hurricanes caused the most damage and death between 1980 and 2021, with $1.1 trillion in total damage and 6,697 deaths. The cost of all this hurricane damage averages out to $20.5 billion per hurricane (of course, some were far more damaging than others, such as Hurricane Katrina).

But who pays for hurricane clean up in the United States?

Hurricane Cleanup: Who Pays?

A variety of entities end up picking up the tab for hurricane damage, from the federal government to local municipalities. Beyond federal and state disaster relief funding, local governments are often required to tap into reserve funds or utilize credit to fund hurricane cleanup.

Insurance companies may cover some of the costs, but individual homeowners are often left with a large chunk of the cleanup bill.

Local and regional utility companies also need to dig into budgets to pay for necessary infrastructure repair, including utility line repair and tree clearing.

Vegetation Management and Tree Clearing

One of the main sources of damage during a hurricane are trees and vegetation, which can quickly get entangled in power lines or worse, become uprooted. Trees can cause a number of problems during and after a massive tropical storm including:

Fallen Branches and Debris

During a hurricane, tree branches can often fall and bring structures as well as utility lines down with them. The debris can get in roads and block travel, causing all sorts of havoc.

Uprooted and Broken Trees

It’s not uncommon for tree trunks to snap completely during a hurricane, which can cause property damage and death. These fallen trees can also be a major source of power outages. Trees are also often completely uprooted during hurricanes, especially when soil is moist from heavy rainfall.

Unstable Trees

Trees can shift after a hurricane due to the erosion of the soil as well as flooding. If the tree’s roots are saturated for a long time with water, they can drown, which can lead to root rot. Once this happens, the trees are prone to falling, which can cause problems with power lines and put people in danger.

Proactive Vegetation Management to Reduce Hurricane Costs

Because of all the dangers that can come from hurricane tree damage, it is very important for municipalities and utility companies to be proactive about cleaning up trees that might be harmed during a hurricane.

Ongoing, proactive vegetation management before a hurricane hits can help reduce the problem of trees harming power lines and transformers if a storm does barrel through the area.

During extremely strong storms, of course, even the most well-maintained, stable trees can be harmed, but if excess vegetation and sick trees are pruned prior to a storm, then there will be fewer chances of problems.

Keeping trees properly trimmed before a storm can potentially save costs, as it is far cheaper to maintain vegetation proactively than fix damage caused by a tree in a howling storm.

Tree Service Providers for Hurricane Preparedness

One of the most important entities involved in hurricane cleanup is a tree service provider (like Townsend Tree Service), which can be brought in to help municipalities and utility companies for emergency storm response. Tree service providers should also be tapped to clear vegetation proactively, on an ongoing basis.

Also, if a hurricane is forecast to hit an area, it’s a good idea to contact a tree service provider such as Townsend Tree Service ahead of time. If there is sufficient time ahead of the storm, the tree service provider can assess the trees that are close to power lines and prune or clear out any that are growing too close or at risk of falling during a massive storm.

Townsend Tree Service is a leading, multi-state provider of expert tree trimming, line clearing and vegetation management services. We have extensive expertise helping utilities get the power back on after major disasters like hurricanes. Learn more about our integrated vegetation management services here.

How to Reduce At-Home Energy Consumption

Sustainability is vital for a variety of reasons, and at-home energy consumption is an important key. With more people working from home since the COVID-19 pandemic started, homes have often become a combination of residences and offices.

Taking some simple steps to reduce power consumption at home can be incredibly helpful, not just in reducing costs but also in alleviating strain on stressed power grids. These energy-efficient measures can literally be lifesaving during weather emergencies such as extreme summer heat.

Taking a Home Energy Inventory

One of the first steps in reducing power consumption at home is to take a home energy inventory or audit. The energy inventory may be different depending on the household but can include common elements such as:

● Average monthly energy consumption.
● Peak energy trends (such as higher A/C consumption during summer months).
● Current appliances (such as the dishwasher, laundry machines, etc.) and their energy ratings.
● Lighting, including indoor and outdoor lighting.
● Office supplies and equipment.
● Windows and insulation.

Take a good look at each category to see where possible energy leaks and drains might be lurking. Some simple fixes might include making better choices, such as not putting the air conditioning on a high setting during peak power loads.

Energy-Saving Appliances

Appliances can be a huge power drain. In the home energy audit, identifying energy-guzzling appliances can potentially have a huge impact.

For example, is an ancient refrigerator consuming far more energy than it’s worth? In many cases, old appliances can be replaced with modern versions that have much better energy ratings.

Of course, weighing the cost of the new appliance versus maintaining the old one is also important. Note too that replacing an appliance does have an environmental impact as well. The old appliance may end up as landfill waste while the new one had an energy and environmental cost involved in its production and transportation. Thus, if replacing an appliance is only going to save a few pennies per month in energy costs, it is likely not worth it.

All that said, sometimes the choice is clear: Many newer appliances have significant energy savings and possibly other benefits. For example, a new high-efficiency washing machine not only saves energy but water as well.

When your appliance needs upgrading, look for products by respected brands carrying the yellow and black Energy Star label. These certified products can make a big dent in utility bills.

Better Lighting

Lighting is an easy way to enhance energy efficiency in a home. These days, LED lightbulbs are affordable and long lasting. They also do not contain mercury, which was a major concern about compact fluorescents or CFLs.

LED light bulbs are much more efficient than traditional bulbs, by up to three times or even more. LED bulbs also produce up to 90% less heat, making them longer lasting and safer to use.

Turning off lights when they are not in use will also save energy. New smart lightbulbs and smart plugs can make this even easier. Using an app, you can program when lights will turn on and turn off in specific rooms.

Outdoors, consider replacing wired lighting with solar powered lights. These lights can be used to make pathways more visible and are a far better option when using lights for decorative purposes.

Slaying Vampire Power

The term vampire power refers to unnecessary energy consumption by plugged-in devices. The devices may be asleep, hibernating or even “turned off” but are still consuming a small amount of energy. Electronic devices such as smart TVs, computers and computer monitors are common sources of vampire power suckage. If left unchecked, vampire power can end up becoming 10-15% of your power bill.

Smart plugs can be extremely helpful in managing vampire power leakage because they can be programmed to turn off an outlet strip at designated times.

Windows and Insulation

When temperatures rise or fall, one of the things that keeps energy bills from getting too high is insultation. Insulation acts as a buffer between the home and the outside world. Good insulation will keep heat in during the winter months and help your air conditioner cool the house in the summer.

Insulation can take the form of special materials used to line the insides of walls and roofs, but sometimes even exterior decoration can serve an insulating purpose. For example, Formstone, a fake stone applied to brick rowhomes popularized in Baltimore, helps to insulate older houses. Formstone has gone out of style, but many residents keep their Formstone precisely because it helps insulate their homes.

Windows are also a common source of lost energy. Upgrading windows to energy-efficient versions can make a hugely positive impact on heating and cooling bills. They might also be more soundproof and provide more peace for homes in noisy neighborhoods. Don’t forget to seal and weatherstrip your windows to make sure that cracks aren’t letting outside air in.

Townsend Tree clears tree branches and debris from power lines and provides integrated vegetation management services for utilities, municipal systems, pipeline companies and more. Contact us for more information.

Tips on Planting Trees

Friday, April 29, 2022, is Arbor Day, a national holiday to encourage people to plant and nurture trees. This annual holiday, which started in 1872, was the brainchild of Julius Sterling Morton, President Grover Cleveland’s Secretary of Agriculture.

One of the best ways to celebrate Arbor Day is to plant a tree. To get involved, you might find some non-profit groups in your area offering volunteer opportunities and some corporations may also organize tree planting events.

The Value of Trees

Trees are an important part of the ecosystem that provide food and shelter for animals and birds and add beauty to any area where they are allowed to grow and thrive. People simply love trees, and they have a positive effect on our moods and mental health.

Trees are also critical in combating climate change. They eat up air pollution and CO2 and replace it with life-giving oxygen. They reduce surface heat by providing shade, which is necessary in hot cities where pavement and buildings can create dangerous “urban heat islands.”

With all these benefits, trees also boost home and property values, making them an investment that provides tangible dividends.

Tips on Planting Trees

Planting trees is not overly difficult, but do not underestimate the care and planning that should go into your tree-planting venture. Here are a few things to consider when planting trees:

What Will You Plant and Where?

While it takes years for a tree to grow to its full height and width, keep the final size in mind when choosing what to plant and where. You’ll want a tree that doesn’t crowd out the other trees in the vicinity, or worse, grow dangerously close to a roof, power lines or other structures.

The type of tree you plant should be one that can thrive in your regional climate. Ideally, this will be a tree that is native to the area. Bringing in exotic trees could impact the ecosystem, including the insects, although it is now common to plant non-native palm trees in states like Florida and California. Both states have their own native palm trees, but in Southern California, only one palm tree is native, the Washingtonia filifera, and in Florida, many palm trees are becoming endangered due to development.

Palm trees guzzle water to survive, and other types of trees do as well, so keep this in mind when choosing a tree. You don’t necessarily want to plant a palm tree in an arid area where water is scarce unless you plan on watering it regularly.

Taller trees also need more water in general. Hot and dry areas like central Texas tend to have shorter trees because of the lack of water and excess heat.

Selecting a Tree

The best way to shop for a tree native to your area is, of course, locally. Your local nursery should have a variety of trees to choose from. A smaller, younger tree is a wiser choice for planting because larger, more mature trees often need to have their roots cut for transportation. Keeping the roots intact will give your tree a greater chance at success. This is not to say you cannot start with a larger tree, but it may need some additional care.

Preparing the Area for Planting

Once you have selected your tree and the general location, you’ll need to dig a hole. The hole will initially also be a testing hole. You should fill it with water before planting the tree, and if you notice any issues with drainage, the ground in that spot may not be suitable or you may need to consult with a professional landscaper.

The hole for your tree should be two to three times the size of the root ball of the tree.

Planting the Tree

To plant, place the tree’s root ball carefully in the hole and then fill the hole with dirt. Make sure the dirt is even around all sides and that the tree is secured in the middle. The dirt should be tamped down firmly but not packed so tightly that the roots can’t breathe. The tree should be stable in the dirt and not tipping over.

Water the tree immediately after planting. You should use enough water to make the soil moist but not too soggy.

Once the Tree is Planted

After planting, watering is one of the most important things you’ll need to do for your new tree. Depending on the tree, you might end up using five to ten gallons per week or more. Fertilizer for your tree can help it grow, especially if the soil in your area is depleted.

Mulching around the tree can also be helpful, but only if done correctly. Never place mulch directly against the tree’s trunk. This could trap moisture and cause the wood to decay. Mulch should be spaced at least three inches away from the tree trunk.

Finally, don’t forget pruning. Young trees will grow many branches that are in competition for one another as the top dog, but this can weaken the tree. Strategic pruning is the key to a healthy, strong, thriving tree for years to come.

Townsend Tree places a high value of trees. We take the utmost care to carefully trim and maintain trees to support their health while keeping branches away from critical power lines. Contact us today for more information on how we can keep energy systems up and running through smart vegetation management—or, reach out to our sister company, Townsend Arborcare, for help maintaining your residential tree needs.

What Is the Future of Energy in America?

Renewable energy is something that has been discussed for a long time, but will America ever be able to fully embrace it? While it may seem that transitioning away from fossil fuels has been happening at a snail’s pace, the good news is, things are changing for the better.

Where Does the United States Get Its Energy?

The United States currently relies on a mix of various energy sources, including renewable energy and the old stand-by, fossil fuels. Primary energy sources are those types of energy that in essence allow us to create “usable” energy, known as secondary energy.

Electricity is actually a secondary energy source garnered from other energy sources like oil, nuclear energy and solar power. (If we were to someday harness lightning, then electricity could become a “primary” energy source, but the current technology is just not there yet.)

As of 2020, here is the breakdown of energy sources leveraged in the United States:

· Petroleum: 35%
· Natural gas: 34%
· Nuclear electric power: 9%
· Renewable energy: 12%
· Coal: 10%

Here’s how renewable energy sources break down:

· Wind: 26%
· Hydroelectric: 22%
· Wood: 18%
· Biofuels: 17%
· Solar: 11%
· Biomass waste: 4%
· Geothermal: 2%

Thus, wind is responsible for 26% of the 12% total of renewable energy utilized by the United States. You’ll note that “wood,” which is not typically considered a “renewable energy source,” is also in this list. Solar power is actually quite low on the list at 11% of renewable energy, making it only a small portion of the energy generated in the United States as a whole.

As you can see, we’re still quite a far way away from renewable energy becoming the main fuel source in the United States.

The Future of Solar Energy in North America

The good news is, with aggressive action, solar power can dramatically move forward as a leading energy source in the United States. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that solar energy could become 40% of the nation’s electricity source as early as 2035, less than 15 years away. That number could potentially increase to 45% or more by 2050.

Solar energy is cheap and can significantly help carbon emissions. No greenhouse gases are emitted while solar power is being generated, however, there may be some environmental impact in the initial creation of solar power systems.

Photovoltaics (PV) such as solar panels are popular and can be easily installed in a variety of locations, including on the roofs of homeowners, who can potentially sell energy back to utility companies when in excess. But we can also expect an increase in centralized solar power plants using technologies such as reflecting mirrors as well as solar heating and cooling (SHC) systems.

The Future of Natural Gas in North America

With the commitment to renewables, is there any future for non-renewable sources of energy such as natural gas? Natural gas can be a polarizing issue, according to McKinsey & Company, highlighting the odd juxtaposition of new discoveries and technologies providing ample liquefied natural gas (LNG) while decarbonization policies threaten the industry.

Net carbon neutral goals will put a damper on the natural gas industry, especially in states such as Hawaii, New York and California. Hawaii has an ambitious goal to be complete carbon neutral by 2045. California is gearing up to transition to at least 60 percent renewable energy by 2030, in less than 10 years.

Yet, natural gas is still a key energy source, especially in states that aren’t as focused on aggressive carbon neutral policies. While current projections by McKinsey show a leveling off of natural gas demand by 2035, gas still has an important role to play. Why?

Because gas is still a preferable alternative to coal-powered energy, and it is expected to displace coal in the medium term.

While McKinsey places gas ahead of nuclear in the long term, nuclear power is still considered to be a critical strategic energy source in the time of climate change. That said, many environmental activists have very vocal concerns about the long-term safety of nuclear energy.

What Else Is in Store for America’s Energy Future?

Energy generation is only one part of the energy equation. The other side is energy usage. On the one hand, America’s voracious appetite for energy shows no signs of slowing up. But on the positive side, more and more people are seeing the value of energy conservation. With technologies such as smart grids and more energy efficient appliances, energy consumption can hopefully be kept in check.

Electric cars will be an important part of the transition to renewables, so expect to see electric car infrastructure built out significantly in the next two years.

Townsend Tree helps utilities and pipeline companies keep energy flowing safely with services such as tree trimming, line clearing and hazardous tree removal. Contact us to find out more about how we can help you provide continuous electrical service to your customers.

Your Guide to Making the Most of Your Christmas Tree

The holiday season is in full swing, and people are heading out to tree lots in droves in search of the perfect yuletide symbol for their homes: the Christmas tree. This year, however, consumers are finding trees in short supply, in part due to weather fluctuations and supply chain issues, but also due to a marked labor shortage in the tree trimming industry. Christmas tree farming is very labor intensive, with many species of trees requiring pruning and shaping for years to result in that perfect Christmas tree shape. Lack of pruning takes a toll on the beauty of prospective trees, and results in some that are simply unmarketable. Some tree farmers are even having difficulty finding competent tree cutters willing to help with this year’s harvest, making getting trees to market even more stressful.

The message for consumers interested in finding that perfect pine or fir is clear: If you see a tree you like, buy it. There probably won’t be any last-minute deals and, with a shortage of this nature, the nicest trees will sell fast. Since prices of trees will be on the rise because of shrinking inventory, it is a smart idea to take good care of the tree you choose to get the most return on your investment. This article will help you maintain your tree throughout the holidays and touch on the proper disposal of trees when the holidays have ended.

Proper Care and Maintenance of Your Christmas Tree

More than 30 million households in the United States choose a live tree over their plastic counterparts as a centerpiece to their holiday decorating. With trees in short supply — and at a premium price — if you’re one of the lucky families that have sourced a beautiful, live Christmas tree, you’ll want to ensure it maintains its freshness for as long as possible. Here’s how to extend the life of your tree this year:

Start with a Fresh Tree

For best results, source the freshest tree possible. Half of the weight of a cut tree is water, and most species can go eight hours without uptaking more. Choose a tree from a lot where the trees have been recently harvested or where the trunks are stored in water buckets to ensure they are remaining hydrated. Buying from a cut-your-own-tree farm is the best way to ensure optimal freshness.

Get the Right Stand

A reservoir stand is the best way of minimizing needle loss and help your tree to stay fresher, longer. Make sure you have a large enough reservoir for your tree’s size. You will need at least one quart of water for every inch of your tree’s trunk diameter. Also, make sure the stand is a perfect fit for your tree’s trunk — if you whittle the sides of the trunk to fit the stand you are interfering with your tree’s ability to uptake water. Make sure you check the reservoir daily to ensure you have enough water for your tree.

Learn the Proper Way to Cut

Although many people drill holes into the base of the trunk to assist with water uptake, this does not actually help. Instead, cut a disk of wood about .5 inches in size from the base of the trunk. Cut straight across, perpendicular to the axis of the stem rather than angling the cut or cutting a V shape, which can make it more difficult to seat the tree properly into the stand.

Be Aware of Safety Concerns

Keeping your live tree away from heating sources such as heaters, heating vents, fireplaces and even direct sunlight can help preserve the life of your tree and reduce the possibility of fire hazards. When decorating your live tree, use only low-heat lights such as LED lights. Make sure to inspect all electrical items before using with your tree and never leave tree lights on when you leave the house or retire to bed. If your tree becomes very dry, it is best to remove it from your home for optimal safety.

Proper Disposal of Your Christmas Tree

After the holidays, make sure you dispose of your Christmas tree properly. Never burn any part of your Christmas tree in your fireplace — instead, check your local area for specific options for Christmas tree disposal. Here are some options that are typically available:

· Trees can be cut and placed into yard waste containers or tied and stacked for yard waste pickup.
· Some nonprofits will pick up Christmas trees for a donation.
· Some recycling providers offer special tree pickup schedules for a few weeks following the Christmas holiday.
· Many communities offer tree drop-off and recycling centers where you can take your tree for no charge.
· You can participate in a tree recycling program where a provider will chip the tree and make the mulch available for gardens.

Responsibly disposing of your tree helps to reduce safety hazards caused by drying trees and provides a way to give back to the planet through recycling. Of course, if you opt for a living tree that comes rooted in a pot, you can simply plant it outside after the holidays are over and enjoy its beauty year-round.

A Tree with all the Trimmings

For most Americans, a Christmas tree is an important part of the yuletide season. But trees in general are an important part of the American landscape, bringing beauty, nourishment and stabilization to our yards, businesses and roadways. However, proper tree trimming is essential not only for the health of our living trees, but also for the safety and comfort of home and business owners. Trees that encroach on power lines can not only cause power disruption, but they can also be safety hazards in the event of storms and other natural disasters.

At Townsend Tree, we have a team of knowledgeable tree and vegetation experts that use a combination of technology and deep understanding to provide tree trimming and vegetation management services. We support utilities, pipeline companies and transportation departments to help keep power flowing and safety at the forefront for home and business owners in over 30 states — during Christmas and all year long.

The Labor Force: A Serious Issue Within the Tree Services Industry

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has caused mass disruption to everyone’s lives — and the ways they do business. In June 2021, there were a record 10.1 million jobs available and just 9.5 million people unemployed, which seems like the perfect win-win scenario for both employers and job seekers. Some of the reason for the disconnect between workers and prospective employers is that unemployment benefits have been generous during the pandemic, although those expanded benefits ended in September.

Most unemployed were gaining a $300 bonus from the federal government each week on top of their current state benefits, keeping many from hitting the pavements to find other sources of income. Those that do are being very particular about opportunities. And since there are more jobs than people to fill them, it is a job seeker’s market. What does this mean for the tree services industry?

Companies involved in utility vegetation management have seen a boost in market demand for their services, with a 35% increase bringing market earnings to somewhere between $4-$5 billion. While this seems good on the face of it, the fact remains that since earlier this year, there has been a pressing skilled labor shortage affecting these companies. Growing demand for services coupled with a dearth of qualified labor spells difficulties for tree services companies — and the utilities they serve.

What is Contributing to the Tree Services Labor Shortage?

Since competition is elevated, some companies are poaching qualified labor from their colleagues and suppliers, resulting in high turnover rates and an increase in newer, less experienced crew members. Since the job is physically demanding, many are choosing to find work in other industries that are less so.

Employees Move Where the Pay is Better

Investor-owned utilities often pay better than their public cohorts, including smaller and municipal organizations. For this reason, the workforce tends to migrate where the pay is greater.

Many are Retiring

An increase in retiring tree service professionals is putting a dent in the workforce in two ways: First, retiring employees reduce workforce numbers and they take their expertise with them. Secondly, replacing an employee with 20 years of knowledge is difficult, since younger staff require extensive training to get up to speed.

Company Politics and Stability

As with any industry, some tree service companies may have internal issues that make the workplace difficult to navigate — a problem that can result in employees finding work elsewhere. Employees will gravitate toward positions with well-equipped organizations that offer stability and opportunities for advancement and expansion.

Safety Concerns

The utility maintenance profession — and tree service in particular — is physically demanding as well as potentially risky. To keep these concerns at bay for employees, this means tree service organizations must closely follow stringent safety protocols.

How to Reduce the Impact of the Labor Shortage

There are many things organizations that companies that offer tree services and utility maintenance can do to keep their talent pool healthy.

· Understand the needs and challenges of a younger generation and meet their requirements.
· Offer a career rather than a job position.
· Concentrate on the development of skills and experience rather than simple on-the-job training.
· Ownership and empowerment should be offered all the way down to the crew level.
· Tree service requires much skill; Make pay commensurate with this level of skill.
· Reframe the profession as a necessary component that helps preserve the integrity of crucial infrastructure.
· Focus on creating a safe work environment.

At Townsend Tree, we draw motivated, talented staff by offering comprehensive benefits packages that help support our employees and their families and by creating a safe, positive environment. By focusing on ways to improve both professional and personal quality of life standards, we can maintain teams of highly qualified, knowledgeable staff members to serve our client base.

Get Your Tree Service and Line Maintenance Scheduled Now

For utilities, there is no better way to ensure continuity of services than to schedule them in advance according to a specific schedule. In the fall, many tree service companies are overwhelmed with emergency calls due to sudden storms and weather events and these calls often must be prioritized because of potential safety factors. If the company is already understaffed, it can be difficult to manage the emergency work among last-minute calls for routine maintenance. Additionally, unexpected storms and changes in the weather can halt or stall routine vegetation management, contributing to work delays.

However, if you keep your vegetation properly maintained on a strict schedule, even a slight delay in a routine visit should not result in dangerous overgrowth. And if vegetation management companies have a yearly schedule to follow, it becomes simpler for them to allocate the proper staff to take care of both emergency calls and assigned maintenance tasks.

Electrical Utility Budget Planning for 2022

In 2020, there were 22 weather or climate disasters that impacted the United States, each of which cost $1 billion or more in damages. In fact, all told the storms amounted to $95 billion in total damages. There were a record seven tropical cyclone disasters, 13 severe storms, one drought disaster, and one that was attributed to wildfires.

Not only did these disasters destroy infrastructure and cost lives, but they also impacted electrical utilities across the nation. In Texas, for example, the February winter storm was one of the most expensive in history. The historic freeze took down many of the state’s generators, leaving electricity companies to buy the power they needed at exorbitant rates as natural gas prices rose more than 700 percent as the storm continued. One main reason for power outages from this storm was ice build-up on mature trees that impacted power lines.

While Texas lawmakers look at approving billions of dollars in financial relief to electricity and gas markets, utilities elsewhere in the nation are reeling from the ongoing battery of storms and weather disasters. Hurricane Ida has spotlighted problems with Louisiana’s largest grid operator, Entergy Corp., where slow power restoration is a criticism of the energy giant. Ida knocked down trees across its path — from Louisiana to Mississippi and points north — leaving millions without power.

This scenario is being played out across the country and energy providers are seeking to grapple with growing demands. In the meantime, electrical utility budget planning is commencing for 2022 and there are various decisions to be made.

Electrical Utility Budgeting and Planning: Pinpointing and Planning for the Cause of Outages

Fall is the time when most utilities issue their Requests for Proposal for the following year. When budgets are robust, utilities can invest in a robust vegetation management program that can help prevent the kind of devastation the aforementioned storms caused. Not only do utilities have to increase their focus on bolstering infrastructure, but they must keep a keen interest in preserving and maintaining the infrastructure already in place.

This just makes good fiscal sense.

Trees are the Leading Causes of Power Outages

It’s true. And, if a tree falls on a power line, the utility that owns the line is responsible for the damage. And in fact, the National Electrical Safety Code requires utilities to ensure that vegetation — including trees and branches — are pruned, trimmed, or removed to prevent damage to lines that could create a risk of injury.

But Trimming Trees is One of the Least Expensive Ways to Manage Power

Electric utilities want to deliver power as inexpensively as possible. Harry Ng, a project manager for the Electric Power Research Institute, notes that tree trimming and removal is the fastest, easiest, least expensive way for utilities to supply power to customers. A tree management program costs three to 10 times less than burying existing lines.

The results of a good tree trimming and management program are calculable. Kansas City Power and Light manages to get great results in one of the most treed cities in the nation. They began a serious tree trimming program after a major storm in 1985. Using their tree management program, they have achieved a 90 percent reduction in tree-related outages.

Other power companies such as Arkansas Power and Light have doubled their budget for tree trimming, moving from $6-$8 million to $12 million.

Post-Pandemic Cuts Might Keep Electrical Utility Budgets Tight The operative word here is “might.” Since COVID-19, commercial demand for power has declined while the more profitable residential demand is on the rise. There are many issues facing modern utilities, including replacing or bolstering legacy infrastructure and increasing their ability to meet rising demand.

Continuing Tree Management: The Smart Fiscal Choice for Electric Utilities’ 2022 Budget

It’s simple. Even if budgets are tight, the least expensive way to reduce the potential of costly damage and power outages, not to mention reducing the potential for expensive lawsuits, is to create and maintain a robust tree management program.

Just take a look at California’s PG&E, a power company that is facing numerous lawsuits for failing to cut trees that posed a danger in wildfire-prone areas. This utility has experienced several serious issues that were attributable to inadequate vegetation management activities that led to unforeseen outages. Whether or not your budget is tight, a strong tree management program is an essential element of a smart fiscal program for power utilities.

· Keeping trees trimmed is less expensive than buried power lines.
· Trimming trees reduces power outages and associated damages up to 90 percent.
· Managing vegetation reduces the probability of costly lawsuits.

Notably, staying on top of your current tree trimming program is important. If your tree trimming program is allowed to falter, coming back later to take care of more mature vegetation can end up costing you double — or more.