Tower climbers rarely get the credit for bravery that firefighters, police officers, and US troops fighting wars do. It takes strength, finesse, guts, and perseverance to climb towers everyday, sometimes 60 hours per week, in every condition known to man. Those who choose the profession aren’t in it for the glory, the recognition, or the fame. Those who become tower climbers get a good salary, but there is a fearlessness that can’t be taught.
There are many things that those outside of the field don’t know about tower climbers.
1) More than just climbing – Tower climbers are responsible for building new towers, from foundation to tip. When towers become obsolete, they tear them down, piece by piece. The time in between erecting and dismantling towers, the climbers tend to all of the maintenance related to the towers. This includes putting on lights, changing the bulbs, painting the towers, running the lines and even scraping the rust. All of these are essential for keeping cell phones, football games, and wi-fi services running at full optimization.
2) There is no off-season – When a tower goes down, they can’t wait until spring to fix it. This means climbing towers at freezing temperatures, in 115 degree heat, and everything in between. When they are climbing a 400 foot tower they can’t just climb down for a cup of coffee or to warm their hands.
3) Its not a 9-5 – Climbers have to work around the operating schedules of broadcasting stations. If a television station goes off the air at two am, they are on the tower shortly after, climbing in the dark. Everything from changing bulbs to repairing wiring is done 1,500 feet up into a moonlit night.
4) Travel may be required – There are companies that employ road crews. These crews travel wherever they are needed. Some never stay in a location for more than a few weeks. Other companies have more centralized locations, but there is often a lot of road time and hotels involved.
5) It’s not just a job – In order to make it as a tower climber, you have to be physically fit and truly want to do the job. Like any job, if it’s not enjoyable, it wont last. This is especially true with a job like this which has such rigorous demands.
6) It’s completely outside – Except for a quick stop in the office, this career path is outside all of the time. Anyone with aversion to the elements should avoid this career.
7) Problem solving is not optional – The crews are often out in the middle of nowhere and each situation is a little different. The blue-prints don’t always go according to plan (no pun intended) and they must be prepared to make it work.
8) Not a one man job – When they climb up with a teammate, if one tower climber completes their job, they don’t just climb down and relax. No man (or woman) is left on the tower. It is the true definition of team.
9) Pay scale – While tower climbers make more than other hourly employees, it is based on experience and skill. Some make $50,000+ per year, but the hours are varied and full. This is why tower climbers can’t just be in it for the paycheck.
10) Need for focus – Most people think of tower climbing as a very dangerous job, while this is true, it is mostly dangerous for those who don’t pay attention. As long as tower climbers aren’t easily distracted, it doesn’t have that dangerous of an occupation.
The misconceptions aside, tower climbers are as fearless as any fireman, and while they don’t save lives, they do keep everyone’s lives running. From Facebook to Twitter to texting to cable, these are made possible by tower climbers.