Questions, Answers about Tree Trimming

Trees are part of a community’s greatest assets. They’re also one of the most common causes of power outages. One tree can knock out power to hundreds or even thousands of customers. That’s why we work to manage the growth of trees in neighborhoods, and to protect nearby power lines that provide electric service.

We’ve heard questions and concerns from customers about our tree trimming practices. Here are the answers.

Q. Why does SWEPCO clear trees away from power lines?
A. Planned trimming and removal of trees and other vegetation prevents extended outages at inconvenient times. It’s part of our work to deliver safe, reliable electric service to your home.

Q. How does SWEPCO decide where to clear trees?
A. We regularly review the number and duration of outages on our circuit to determine which circuits should be trimmed from one end to the other. When only a part of the circuit is impacted, we may trim only the problem area on a circuit.

Q. Who does this work?
A. We use several licensed line clearance certified companies, including Asplundh Tree Expert, Nelson Tree Service and ABC/BDG Professional Tree Service. Companies we contract with are qualified to work around electrical lines and equipment. SWEPCO’s professional foresters and contract foresters oversee this work.

Q. Does SWEPCO follow any guidelines when clearing limbs and trees away from lines?
A. We follow standards set by the International Society of Arboriculture, American National Standards Institutes and the Utility Arborists Association.

Q. How much will the trees be trimmed?
A. Our objective is to trim a minimum of 10 feet of clearance from distribution lines. Pruning clearances are tree-species specific and based on regrowth rates. This allows for access to perform routine maintenance and help prevent contact during most storms. The cuts allow for some re-growth until the tree is trimmed again.

Q. Does the work involve just trimming or are trees also removed?
A. It can be both. Trees that grow directly under or near our lines may be removed rather than trimmed. If a tree is removed, our foresters can help you select the right tree and placement.

Q. Will you notify me before my trees will be trimmed?
A. Yes. We go door-to-door to discuss details of the work to be done. If no one is home, we will leave a card with a phone number you can call for more information.

Q. Do you notify community leaders before the work begins?
A. Yes. Our community affairs managers notify local leaders of the upcoming trimming and answer any questions they have.

Q. Does SWEPCO remove debris after the trees are trimmed?
A. We remove branches and limbs from maintained and landscaped area. Wood is left for the property owner’s use. In rural areas, we leave wood, limbs and branches to naturally decompose and for wildlife habitat.

We do not remove cut trees or limbs during emergency power restoration, such as after storms. This allows tree crews to quickly and safely clear trees from our lines and equipment and then move to the next location. Our linemen follow behind to get power restored as quickly as possible.

Q. Can I trim my own trees?
A. You should never attempt to trim to remove tree limbs near or adjacent to power lines. If you have a concern, please report it by at SWEPCO.com or by calling 1-888-216-3523 (Arkansas, Louisiana and East Texas residents) or 1-866-223-8508 (North Texas – Panhandle). Serious injury or even death can occur when untrained or unqualified individuals trim vegetation close to power lines.

Q. What if a tree isn’t in the right of way, but its branches are?
A. We will trim the branches to provide a minimum of 10 feet of clearance from distribution lines. Pruning clearances are tree species specific and based on regrowth rates. This allows for access to perform routine maintenance and help prevent contact during most storms.

Q. What if I don’t want my trees trimmed?
A. We have an obligation to provide you, your neighbors and local businesses with safe, reliable electric service. Therefore vegetation must be cleared from power lines.

Should we have to remove your tree, our foresters can help you select the right tree for the right place.

If you would like to speak to a forester about tree trimming, please contact us through SWEPCO.com or by calling 1-888-216-3523 (Arkansas, Louisiana and East Texas residents) or 1-866-223-8508 (North Texas – Panhandle). We will pass your information along to the forester working in your area.

Trees add to the natural beauty of neighborhoods. It’s easy to forget they can and do cause power outages – for individuals, businesses and entire neighborhoods.

Author: Carey Sullivan

Carey Sullivan is SWEPCO's director of Corporate Communications and is based at the company's Shreveport, La., headquarters.

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