Stay focused on safety during harvest

During harvest season, many farmers reap the benefits of advancement in agricultural technology. With the help of GPS auto-steer devices, farmers are able to decrease driver error and maximize productivity. Yet despite these advances, safety risks remain. To help farmers stay out of harm’s way, Safe Electricity shares tips for a safe harvest.

GPS with auto-guidance provides farmers with real-time location data about a field, which can be used for crop planning, map making, navigation assistance and machinery guidance. During harvest, this technology allows drivers to have their hands off the steering wheel as the combine maneuvers itself through the field. Thanks to this technology, farmers can more easily and efficiently maintain accuracy even during low-light conditions, which enhances productivity.

“One critical part of safety around electricity is awareness,” explains Kyla Kruse, communications director of the Safe Electricity program. “It’s important to remember that farm machinery is vulnerable to hitting power lines because of its large size, height and extensions. Being aware of the location of overhead power lines and planning a safe equipment route can help reduce accidents.”

In equipment with auto-guidance systems, less focus is needed on steering, which may lead some drivers to think that they do not need to be as aware of navigation issues. However, even while using a GPS with auto-steering, farm workers need to keep safety in mind and stay focused on their surroundings.

Putting safety first requires alertness, focus and knowledge of potential hazards and safety steps. Varying pass-to-pass accuracy levels and potential issues, such as power poles not being correctly plotted in the system, reinforce the need for drivers to stay focused on the location of the farm equipment while in the field and to be ready to take action if necessary.

Regardless the technology used on the farm, keep the following electrical safety guidelines in mind:

  • Use a spotter when operating large machinery near power lines.
  • Keep equipment at least 10 feet from power lines—at all times, in all directions.
  • Look up and use care when moving any equipment such as extending augers or raising the bed of grain trucks around power lines.
  • Inspect the height of farm equipment to determine clearance.
  • Always set extensions to the lowest setting when moving loads to prevent contact with overhead power lines. Grain augers should always be positioned horizontally before being moved.
  • Never attempt to move a power line out of the way or raise it for clearance.
  • If a power line is sagging or low, contact your local electric cooperative.

If your equipment does make contact with a power line, do not leave the cab. Immediately call 911, warn others to stay away and wait for the utility crew to cut the power.

The only reason to exit equipment that has come into contact with overhead lines is if the equipment is on fire, which is rare. However, if this is the case, jump off the equipment with your feet together and without touching the ground and machinery at the same time. Then, still keeping your feet together, hop to safety as you leave the area.

For more information on electrical safety, visit everydaysafe.org.

Electrical safety lessons for kids

We all know electricity plays a major role in our everyday lives, and it is a powerful resource that should be respected. Unfortunately, our children often do not understand the dangers of electricity. Tennessee’s electric cooperatives encourage you to share electrical safety tips and lessons with your little ones as often as possible. We also understand their attention spans run short, so here are a few creative ways to get them involved.

Depending on the age of your child, consider designating an “electronics deputy.” The deputy should be responsible for pointing out electronics in your home that are not in use and keeping appliances safe from liquids. Reward your deputy for pointing out overloaded outlets or other potentially dangerous situations.

Emphasize the importance of fire prevention with your children, and create a family fire drill plan as an extra precaution. Incentivize your children by rewarding those who followed the plan and made it safely out of the home.

While it is fun and engaging to turn safety into a game, it is important to ensure your children understand the risks they are facing if they do not practice electrical safety.

One of the most important safety tips you can give your kids is to avoid any downed power lines. In fact, it is best to avoid power lines, transformers and substations in general. A downed power line can still be energized, and it can also energize other objects, including fences and trees. Make sure your kids understand the potential dangers of coming in contact with a downed power line or low hanging wire. And, if they encounter a downed power line, ask them to tell you or another adult to call their local electric cooperative.

Here are a few other safety tips you can share with your kids:

  • Never put metal objects in outlets or appliances.
  • Do not overcrowd electrical outlets.
  • Never mix water and electricity.

No matter how you choose to get your kids interested in staying safe around electricity, your local electric cooperative is here to help. To learn more about being everyday safe, visit everydaysafe.org.

Co-ops light state fair midway

Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation lineman James Crowder flipped a ceremonial switch to light the midway at the 2016 Tennessee State Fair on Friday, Sept. 9.

CEMC lineman Jame Crowder lights the midway during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Tennessee State Fair.

CEMC lineman Jame Crowder lights the midway during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Tennessee State Fair.

Attendees of the opening ceremony heard from legislators and elected officials, including Nashville Mayor Megan Berry and Robin Conover, editor of The Tennessee Magazine.

“Like the fair, electric cooperatives have a tradition service and innovation,” said Conover. “Our local cooperatives are leaders in their communities and are constantly working to find new and creative ways to better serve their members. Tennessee’s electric co-ops make a significant impact on the state’s rural counties and small towns. We serve more than 2.5 million Tennesseans, and our service areas cover 71 percent of the state. We provide jobs for 2,600 employees and pay more than $63 million in taxes. We also keep the lights on 99.96 percent of the time and invest about $10 million each month in infrastructure. Clearly, we believe each small town and community plays its own vital role in the fabric of Tennessee.”

Co-op linemen from across the state presented “Everyday Safe” demonstrations during the fair, educating students, farmers, first responders and others on the importance of electric safety.

“For more than 150 years, the fair has been a celebration of rural Tennessee life,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “It is where World War I hero Sgt. Alvin York showed his prize Hereford and generations have marked the beginning of autumn. It is an honor for Tennessee’s electric co-ops to be a part of this great event.”

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Callis addresses TVA board, discusses energy efficiency

During the regular TVA board of directors meeting on Thursday, August 25, David Callis, executive vice president and general manager for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, expressed appreciation to the TVA board for viewing energy efficiency as a generated resource. Callis also thanked TVA staff for their support of an energy efficiency program being developed by Tennessee’s electric cooperatives that will help low-income homeowners make needed improvements to their homes.

“Most businesses don’t want you to use less of what they are selling,” said Callis. “But that is what we have been trying to do – you at TVA and us as local power companies – and that is where energy efficiency comes into play.”

“Over the past year and a half, Tennessee’s electric cooperatives have been working closely with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation on a program that has the potential to improve the energy efficiency of hundreds, even thousands, of homes across the valley,” said Callis. “The best part of this program is that it targets families that don’t have the financial resources to make those improvements on their own and are unlikely to qualify for (other) loans.”

“TVA staff has been fantastic,” Callis concluded. “It has been a collaborative process from the beginning.”

 

Tennessee co-ops make contribution to Louisiana co-op employee fund

More than 40 electric co-op employees in Louisiana have lost their homes following devastating floods. Today, Tennessee’s electric cooperatives made a $10,000 donation to a fund established by the Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives to assist co-op employees.

“On multiple occasions, Louisiana co-ops have enthusiastically answered our call for help following storms and other events, and our thoughts and prayers are with them this week,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We encourage co-ops across the nation to join us in supporting Louisiana co-ops. Co-op Nation is strongest when we support one another.”

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides legislative and communications support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

Co-ops pull together at Super Pull

Tens of thousands of people attended the 2016 Lions’ Club Super Pull of the South in Chapel Hill on Friday and Saturday, July 22 and 23. The event was sponsored by the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives of Tennessee and TECA.

More than 70 volunteers from Tennessee’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives volunteered to make the event a success. At the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives of Tennessee booth, members registered to win a riding lawn more and learned about electric safety and efficiency. Visitors could win tubes of caulk, LED lightbulbs or receptacle gaskets while learning about energy efficiency and TVA’s eScore program. The Touchstone Energy hot air balloon team flew over the stands with the American flag during the opening ceremony and gave tethered rides each evening.

“I was very impressed by the spirit of cooperation and community commitment demonstrated by our volunteers. The support was tremendous,” says Steve Oden, director of member services for Duck River EMC. “We thank everyone who spent two hot days under the Tennessee Touchstone Energy Electric Cooperatives tent or helping with the hot air balloon.”

“It was encouraging to see our co-ops work together on this event,” says Trent Scott, vice president of corporate strategy for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The partnership between Touchstone Energy, co-ops and TECA allowed us to have a presence and reach our members in ways that no single co-op could have done. We are exploring additional opportunities for us to work together to tell the story of Tennessee co-ops.”

Tennessee Magazine gets the Willies

The Tennessee Magazine staff took home awards of merit for best photo and best editorial at the Willie Award Ceremony held Monday evening, Aug. 11, at the The National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The National Rural Electric Statewide Editors Association Willie Awards is a peer-reviewed program that recognizes excellence in electric cooperative statewide consumer publications.

TECA Executive Vice President and General Manager David Callis received an award of merit for best editorial for Resiliency (Oct. 2015), and Robin Conover, vice president of communications and editor of The Tennessee Magazine, received best photo for this image from The Lions Roar (July 2015).

“Our staff works very hard to create quality content for the readers of The Tennessee Magazine,” says Conover. “Keeping readers engaged with interesting features, editorials and photography is our goal each month. It’s exciting to be recognized by our peers.”

Co-ops issue statement on state broadband study

NASHVILLE, July 19, 2016 – Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are encouraged by the findings and recommendations released earlier today by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development concerning broadband availability across the state.

The report states that current regulatory barriers restrict investment and competition, specifically mentioning a law that prevents the state’s member-owned electric cooperatives from providing broadband access. Electric cooperatives serve 71 percent of the state’s landmass, including a majority of the rural and economically disadvantaged regions identified in the study as areas of greatest need.

“Limited access to broadband has serious consequences for rural Tennessee, and co-ops are uniquely positioned to provide real solutions,” says David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Co-ops have a legacy of expanding critical services beyond the city limits. A generation ago, the issue was power; today it is broadband. “

“Tennessee’s electric cooperatives appreciate Governor Haslam and Commissioner Boyd for their leadership on this important issue,“ says Callis. “This study should serve as a roadmap to the legislature to remove restrictions and foster competition. Co-ops are committed to working with the state to identify real solutions that will benefit rural and suburban Tennessee.”

A copy of the report is available here.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides legislative and communications support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

 

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Contact:
Trent Scott | Vice President of Corporate Strategy | tscott@tnelectric.org | 731.608.1519

 

Cyber counter-attack

About 3:30 in the afternoon last December 23, operators at three electric utilities halfway around the world in western Ukraine found themselves not to be solely in control of their computer terminals. Someone from outside the utilities had taken over the controls and started opening circuit breakers at more than 27 substations, cutting power to more than 200,000 customers. Thousands of fake calls clogged utility switchboards, preventing people from phoning in to get information about the outage. Utility workers switched to manual operations, and it took three hours to restore power.

That’s not a movie plot. And if you missed or forgot about that news report from last year, people who run electric utilities have not. Attention to cyber security at electric utilities has been growing fast in the past few years, and the Ukraine attack pushed that trend into overdrive.

“It’s garnered a lot of attention from the federal government and throughout the industry,” says Barry Lawson, Associate Director of Power Delivery and Reliability for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).

A big part of Lawson’s job is helping the nearly 1,000 electric co-ops in the country understand digital-age dangers, and ensuring that they know how to protect and secure the power supply, electric grid, and co-op members and employees from Internet mischief.

Electric co-ops are showing they do understand the importance of cyber security, says Cynthia Hsu, Cyber Security Program Manager for Business and Technology Strategies at NRECA.

“Electric co-ops were the first utilities to test and use the U.S. Department of Energy’s cyber security self-assessment tool,” says Hsu. “They are often on the cutting edge of implementing best practices to improve their cyber security capabilities.”

While the Ukraine cyber attack has been studied in-depth by U.S. utilities and the Federal Department of Homeland Security, most analysts see a large-scale attack by hackers as unlikely to succeed in this country. The reports characterize the Ukraine attack as extremely well planned and coordinated, but not technically sophisticated.

The Ukraine incident actually started as early as March of last year, when utility workers received e-mails with Microsoft Office documents, such as an Excel spreadsheet, from the Ukrainian parliament. But the emails were not from the Ukrainian parliament. When workers followed the email instructions asking them to click on a link to “enable macros,” malicious malware embedded in the documents––called BlackEnergy 3––secretly infected the system. Among other capabilities, BlackEnergy 3 can enable an adversary to observe and copy all the keystrokes made on the infected computers, giving hackers passwords and other login information needed to access the utility’s operations control systems.

Defenses against that kind of attack are pretty basic, and you’ve probably even heard the warnings yourself—don’t click on any links or attachments unless you were expecting the message to be sent to you. Utilities are increasing their efforts to enhance and formalize their security plans, processes and controls. New cyber security standards require upgraded levels of training for utility operators, multiple layers of security to shield operational and control systems from the Internet and even stricter procedures for visitor access (physical and electronic) to control rooms. These utilities are regularly audited for cyber security compliance, and regulators, such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), can levy strict penalties for not following standards.

NRECA’s Lawson describes an example of one type of security technology, a security token—a physical device an operator would carry with them that changes their password every 30 seconds.

NRECA has also worked with the Department of Energy to develop software called Essence, which constantly monitors a utility’s system for even a microsecond of irregularity that might indicate some kind of hacking attempt or malware is interfering with the system.

With all that attention to keeping the electricity flowing, Lawson says there’s another major cyber-threat receiving high-priority attention from electric co-ops—protecting data and critical utility information to avoid identity theft of members’ information. He says some co-ops hire firms to periodically try to hack into their computer systems, so the co-op can identify and fix the holes in their security.

Lawson describes a scary world of cyber terrorists, organized crime, issue-oriented groups or just kids in their basement seeing what kind of trouble they can cause on the Internet. At the same time, he compares those high-tech threats to risks posed by hurricanes or the everyday need for paying attention to safety at the electric cooperative. Co-ops regularly use risk assessment and management practices to balance a wide range of threats to their systems.

“Physical security and cyber security are becoming just another cost of doing business,” says Lawson. “You’ll never be 100 percent secure, and all you can do is try your best to keep up with the bad guys. It’s a fact of life in these days and times we’re living in.”

Paul Wesslund writes on cooperative issues for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nations 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

Move Over

In 2011, following efforts by Tennessee’s electric cooperatives and municipal utilities, the state’s Move Over law was revised to not only include police, firefighters and other first responders, but utility workers as well. Unfortunately, motorists do not always heed the law.

The requirements of the law are simple. On a four lane road, if safety and traffic conditions allow, a driver approaching a utility vehicle with flashing lights should move into the far lane. On a two lane road or when changing lanes is not possible, a driver should reduce their speed.

The infographic below is designed to help motorists understand their requirements when behind the wheel.

 

moveoverinfographic