Kids Tell Linemen Dads to Be Safe

West River Electric Association: Be Safe Daddy

The four Schmahl sisters want their dad, Matt, an electric cooperative staking foreman, to stay safe on the job because he’s “a great role model, a hard worker and hilarious.”

The Schmahl siblings are the newest safety ambassadors at West River Electric Association in Wall, South Dakota.

Spouses, teens, tweens, toddlers and even newborns appear in “Be Safe, Daddy,” a video made by West River Electric Association as a Christmas gift to line crews.

Employees saw the two and one-half minute video for the first time last month.

“There were definitely some sniffles in the room, even from guys who don’t have kids. It was quiet for a moment,” after the video ended, said Schmahl, father of the girls, ages 16, 12, 10 and 2. “My family is always in the back of my mind. The video reminded me again that’s who I’m working for.”

Mike Letcher, manager of operations, “sparked the idea” of a safety video starring kids a few years ago.

“After 25 years of being on and around line crews, I have discovered that no matter how big and tough a lineman is, he always has a soft spot for children, especially his own and those of his friends,” said Letcher. “So who better to deliver a safety message?”

Lineman Mike Oyen, with daughter Lydia, knows safety comes first, thanks in part to a video from co-workers' spouses and children. (Photo By: West River Electric Co-op)

But logistics and the thought of corralling moody teenagers and squirmy toddlers were daunting enough to delay the project until last summer, said Veronica Kusser, manager of member services and marketing.

“When I contacted the production staff at Basin Electric [Power Cooperative] for assistance, even they were skeptical,” said Kusser. West River “provided the pieces and Basin glued them together” into a coherent video, she added.

Last summer’s three-hour video shoot at a local water park in Rapid City went well, said Kusser. And perhaps even more remarkable was that the families kept the project a secret for several months.

None of the line crews knew about the project until the Christmas party reveal, she said.

Afterwards, “one of the guys admitted, ‘you kind of made me tear up a little,'” said Letcher. “So I think it was a success.”

Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer for NRECA.