MISSOULA, Mont. -

When high winds and cold conditions threaten the power infrastructure, the job done by linemen become crucial. No matter how extreme the weather, the lights have to stay on.

At one Missoula hardware store, heaters and insulating tape are being bought up left and right to protect pipes from freezing.

Most of these devices are electric powered. It's crucial that the power stays on during severe weather.

At Missoula Electric Cooperative (MEC), workers are trained in winter weather survival every year. The key is to limit the time they're exposed to harsh conditions. This means that there is a lot of planning done before they arrive on a job.

A phone call from a customer is the primary way MEC is notified of outages. If there is more than one outage at a time, they begin work where the most people are affected, working their way down the line to individual homes.

With several layers of clothes and biting wind, everything becomes more difficult to do and takes far longer. MEC educates its employees to know their limits, because they can't work in "the worst of the worst" every day unless they take precautions.