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A day in the life of an ENMAX Power meter reader

​​​"Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

This saying was written 2,500 years ago by the Greek historian Herodotus and is typically associated with postal carriers, but in fact, it describes perfectly the role of ENMAX Power meter readers.

For the 66 men and women who make up the meter reading team, the sentiment is bang on. According to Meter Reader Leeann Dochuck the most challenging aspect of her job is the weather. "Hands down it's the cold. When it's minus 30 and your hands are freezing, your toes are freezing, your face is numb – you bundle up and you layer," said Leeann. The one thing that makes it a bit more bearable is that ENMAX is generous in its footwear allowances and provision of winter clothing.

Shane Brown, a 10-year veteran, also thinks the weather is the biggest challenge, although for him rain is the worst element.

"You can brush snow off or stop and warm up if you're cold, but once you're wet, you're wet." The Meter Reading department uses various weather and wind chill guidelines to minimize exposure to the elements which ensures the safety of the meter readers on extreme weather days.

Shane thrives on the freedom of his job. "I love being outside, the quiet, working at my own pace with no one looking over my shoulder."

It's a benefit that draw many meter readers to the job, but the job isn't without its drawbacks. Meter reading is actually more demanding than most people understand. As Meter Reader Ross Manering explained, "It's amazing how much strain and stress you put on your body. I'm an active guy. I ski, play hockey, run and bike, yet the first month I worked here I lost 25 pounds."

Connecting with customers

Meter readers play a surprisingly important social role in customers' lives - particularly those of seniors in the inner city neighbourhoods where the meters are located within the house. One of the pleasures of the job for Leeann is her interaction with customers.

"On one of my routes there's an older lady who's super nice," said Leeann. "She watches out for me and bakes me cookies. A while ago she was going through a terrible time. Her husband had died and her sister had just been diagnosed with cancer. I sat and chatted with her and at the end she thanked me and was so grateful. What's 20 minutes out of your day to help somebody?"

Ross has been reading meters for six years, and he too finds himself establishing friendships with some elderly customers on his routes.

"They're often at their door waiting for you," said Ross. "For some clients you might be the only person they see in days. I play shuffleboard almost every month with a 90-year-old man. It's a treat for me because it's a break from walking and he gets a bit of interaction with someone. It's a neat feeling to be part of his life."

Odd encounters

Meter reading is not without its odd encounters. Shane recalls a time when he let himself into a house (many landlords provide Meter Reading with keys to rental properties). He yelled his name and reason for entering, but when he didn't receive a response assumed the house was empty. Having read the meter he began climbing the basement stairs only to be greeted by a man holding a bat!

"That was a little scary," Shane said. "It took a lot of explaining to this fellow who didn't speak much English - what I was doing in his house and how I got in. It all worked out eventually. He didn’t hit me."

Recently, ENMAX started providing meter readers with multi-lingual cards that can help meter readers communicate with customers that don't speak English.

Employee safety is a priority. Each meter reader is equipped with a LONER GPS which, after two minutes of inactivity, signals a 30-second alert followed by a warning signal to the central office where a supervisor will call the meter reader to ensure all is well. "It’s an awesome safety feature," said Leeann.

She takes extra precautions when working in areas that make her nervous. "Being female you have to be extra careful," Leeann said. "When I go into underground parkades I always call one of my colleagues and let them know where I am and talk to them while I read the meters."

Dogs can be an occupational hazard common to all meter readers. Sometimes real and sometimes imaginary. Early in Ross' career as he was checking a meter he was startled by the sound of a rapidly advancing dog and he ran across the yard. "I thought I didn't have enough time so I hurdled the gate only to realize it was the tiniest dog in the world with the loudest bark."

Shane's experience on the other hand was real indeed. "It was my very first day on the job," Shane said. "My handheld indicated there was a dog in the yard. He looked pretty friendly and I started playing with him. A few seconds later a second dog runs up and bites me in the butt. I learned my lesson to look for more than one dog in a yard from then on."

Dogs aren't the only critters Ross has seen on his routes. He's also run into deer, coyotes and, in Bearspaw, he saw a couple of moose.

There's no doubt that meter readers have a very unique job at ENMAX, yet their role is very important. Not only do they provide an essential service to thousands of customers every month, but their contacts with all sort of customers in variety of situations means they always have to have customer service and safety top of mind. ENMAX is proud of their service and dedication.

Learn more about our meter readers

Customers are free to purchase natural gas services or electricity services from a retailer of their choice. For a list of retailers, visit ucahelps.alberta.ca or call 310-4822 (toll free in Alberta).