For the Anchorage, Alaska, branch of WESCO Distribution, as well as Leviton Manufacturing Co., Little Neck, N.Y., going the extra mile for the customer recently meant going to the ends of the earth, or pretty darn close to it--200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, to be exact. When their Alantic Richfield (ARCO) needed a solution to a uniquely arctic problem, protecting vehicles from the ravages of extreme cold, sales reps from the two companies trekked north to make customer visits in 60-below-zero temperatures.

At the ARCO drilling site located at the northern end of the Trans-Alaska pipeline, all cars, trucks, road graders and other mechanized rolling stock must be heated constantly to avoid "cold soak," a condition that leaves the engines' oil frozen solid and the equipment useless. This means that either the engines must be left running at all times, or the engine oil heaters must be plugged into external power sources. When equipment is in use during the work day, the engine is never turned off. However, when it returns to the company compound and is left unattended for extended periods, the oil heaters are plugged in. Power to the oil heaters is delivered through lines that are suspended from overhead "bull rails" so drivers can park underneath and plug in their heaters. Problems arise when drivers pull away from the bull rails, forgetting to unplug the heaters first, causing the cord-to-plug or cord-to-receptacle connection to be broken. The next driver to use the plug would have no way of knowing that he was plugging into a dead connection. The result: no power to the oil heater and a very dead vehicle.

Leviton came up with a failsafe solution that would alert drivers when their vehicles were not getting power. The company began with its hospital grade, 2-pole, 3-wire, grounding straight-blade plugs and connectors with transparent thermoplastic bodies. Then it modified the plug and receptacles to accept light emitting diodes (LEDs) that glow when the proper power connection is made. They also were equipped with a tougher strain-release mechanism to cut down on failures due to the violent disconnects. The plug and connector combination is listed as Leviton Industrial Specification Grade, and is listed by Underwriters' Laboratories, Inc., as "hospital grade."