Trees enhance our landscapes, provide shade for our homes and are essential for a healthy environment. But if not planted and trimmed properly, trees also can pose problems for power lines by causing electrical hazards and outages.

That’s why Starkville Utilities is highlighting the importance of proper tree placement and maintenance in conjunction with Mississippi’s Arbor Day and Tree Planting Week celebrations, beginning Feb. 12.

“Our mission is to provide our customers with safe, reliable and affordable power,” said Terry Kemp, general manager of Starkville Utilities.

When done responsibly, routine tree trimming plays a major role in preventing outages and has proven to be a cost-effective investment to improve reliability — especially during storms. It also helps discourage squirrels and other animals from accessing lines and electrical equipment, which is another common cause of outages.

For the last five years, Starkville Utilities’ reliability performance has topped 99%, thanks in large part to a $333,000 annual investment in routine tree-trimming operations that keep electricity flowing to customers’ homes and businesses.

Starkville Utilities maintains approximately 190 miles of distribution lines to serve customers. Contractor crews trim around 2,000 feet of vegetation each week within utility rights of way in an effort to cover the entire distribution system every three to four years. Their work is done in accordance with guidelines developed by the American National Standards Institute to ensure safe, reliable utility services.

Along with routine trimming, proper tree placement also helps prevent electrical hazards and power outages.

“We all play a part in keeping lines free from potential hazards and that includes making good choices when planting trees around our homes and businesses,” said Kemp. “For example, customers should plant taller tree varieties away from overhead utility lines so their branches steer clear, especially during storm conditions.”

Kemp added that customers should call a licensed arborist to trim trees near service lines that run from utility poles to their homes or businesses, as well as to regularly check the health of their trees.

Tree trimming is part of a larger, year-round strategy to enhance reliability. Starkville Utilities follows a proactive preventative maintenance program that helps identify equipment issues before they cause problems. The utility also invests in new devices and technologies to protect the electrical system, such as fault circuit indicators and lightning arrestors that reduce outages and improve power quality.

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