, ,

4H Electric Camp

Three hundred rising seventh and eight graders from across the state of Tennessee are exploring the world of energy, electricity and the basic sciences at the 2015 4-H Electric Camp. While visiting the University of Tennessee, Knoxville campus, 4-H members will discover the world of electricity by participating in various camp learning centers. These learning centers will be taught on Wednesday and Thursday morning, July 8 and 9, from 8:00 a.m. to 11:55 a.m. These learning centers provide “hands-on” activities where 4-H’ers “learn by doing.” This year’s learning centers feature:

Trouble Light – This learning center will teach you some of the basic wiring techniques that are used by electricians every day. You will have the opportunity to demonstrate what you have learned by wiring up a trouble light which you can take with you to use in your home.

Home Energy Conservation – We use electricity to light our home, cook our food, play music, and operate televisions. But as we use more electricity in our homes, our electric bills rise. In this activity, you will learn how conserving electricity in your home not only helps to lower your electric bill, but also helps to conserve our environment.

STEM Learning Center – So what is STEM? This learning center will increase your knowledge of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) principles such as electricity, energy conservation, alternative energy sources, electronics, computer applications, robotics, electrical safety, engineering, and other basic sciences through “hands-on” learning activities.

Electric Vehicles – Campers will learn about batteries, DC current, and how DC current is used to propel electric vehicles. You will also demonstrate your driving skills by maneuvering an electric golf cart through an obstacle course.

Solar Energy – Renewable energy resources reduce the use of fossil fuels and negative impacts on our environment. In this activity, you will learn about how you can use the sun to power things that you use every day. Join us as you discover all about solar energy.

Electrical Safety – Electric power does a tremendous amount of work for us; but, because it is such a powerful force, we must be careful around it. This learning center will teach you how to play it safe around high voltage power lines.

The 4-H Electric Camp is a joint venture of The University of Tennessee Extension; Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and Tennessee’s electric cooperatives; Tennessee Municipal Electric Power Association and its statewide municipal power systems; and TVA.

,

Stay safe in the great outdoors this summer

Summer is in full swing, and that means it is time for fun in the sun! As you find yourself spending more time outdoors, Tennessee’s electric cooperatives remind you to stay safe.

Planning a home improvement project? When working outdoors, you may be using tools, such as ladders, power tools, shovels – or even paintbrushes with extendable arms. These items help you get the job done but have the potential to be dangerous if used improperly.

Pay attention to where you place metal ladders or dig for fence posts. Before you start any project, always look up and avoid overhead power lines. Keep a minimum of 10 feet between you and overhead lines.

If you are planning a project that requires digging, remember to dial “811” first to find out if the area you will be working in is clear of underground power lines. Power tools should be kept away from wet surfaces, and outlets should not be overloaded.

Exploring the great outdoors is a great way to spend time with the family, but keep these safety tips in mind.

Children should never climb trees near power lines – always assume a wire is live. Fly kites and remote controlled-airplanes in large open areas like a park or a field, safely away from trees and overhead power lines.

Planning to take a dip in the pool? Electrical devices, such as stereos, should be kept at least 10 feet away from water sources, and outdoor electrical outlets should always be covered. If you hear a rumble of thunder, exit the pool right away.

Speaking of thunder, summer storms can be dangerous if you’re caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you find yourself outdoors during a storm, move toward suitable shelter with covered sides, and stick to low-lying ground if possible.

These are just a few tips to remember when you are spending time outdoors this summer with your family. Have some fun out there, and always keep safety in mind!

 

Abby Berry writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

 

,

The Evolution of Safe Electricity

Working on electric lines has always been serious business, but in the early years of the 20th century, it could be downright scary. A lack of standards and safety protocols led to far too many injuries and fatalities.

Something had to be done. In August 1914—the same month World War I began in Europe—the U.S. government’s National Bureau of Standards, under the direction of Congress, established the National Electrical Safety Code.

A century later, in a very different world, the code still plays a critical role in electrical system safety with standards that have been widely adopted across the United States and even abroad. But as it celebrates its 100th birthday, the NESC, as it’s known in the industry, is in a process of revision aimed at the future.

“The NESC committee is taking a serious look at what the next hundred years need to be,” says Sue Vogel, who has the responsibility for the code as a senior manager at the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Standards Association.

Electric co-ops have a big stake in that process.

“Our members expect our systems to be reliable, cost effective and as safe as they can be, and going by the NESC is one of the best ways to make sure all that is happening,” says Robert Harris, engineering principal at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and a member of the NESC main committee that oversees the code.

NESC’s history

In the beginning, NESC standards principally dealt with worker safety, but they have since expanded to include the installation, operation and maintenance of overhead and underground lines, substations, grounding and communications equipment.

The standards mean that linemen or other workers are less likely to face unpleasant surprises when working on parts of a system they haven’t seen before. Establishing standards was vitally important in the early days of electricity, when electrical systems were isolated and varied significantly in construction.

But Harris says they remain relevant today, particularly when co-ops or other power suppliers send employees to help with disasters or emergency situations.

“It means they’re not going to be getting into something that’s completely foreign to them,” he says.

Tomorrow’s code

The NESC Main Committee, which has authority for approving the NESC, adopts revisions every five years to keep it up to date. Revisions currently under consideration will go into effect in the 2017 edition of the code.

Mike Hyland, chair of the NESC executive committee, says the process is based on consensus, and the committee invites comments from anyone in the industry with an interest in the code.

“An engineer, a lineman, meter readers, construction folks, consultants – they should all be active in this debate,” says Hyland, a senior vice president at the American Public Power Association, the trade organization for the nation’s municipal electric utility systems.

One proposed revision includes better defining where communications equipment and other equipment, such as photovoltaic panels, can be placed on poles, and aligning NESC’s work rules with new Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements that were published in April 2014.

A broader debate

All these matters have been addressed in the revisions. But there is also a broader debate underway about the future of the NESC. The question is whether the code should largely remain focused on the areas it has covered for decades or whether it should expand to take into account the rapidly changing face of the power industry.

“The electrical system is being asked to do things that it wasn’t asked to do back then,” Hyland says. “We didn’t have wind farms. We didn’t have rooftop solar. We didn’t have community solar. We didn’t have this overlay called the ‘smart grid system.’ Electric utilities are having to adapt and plan for all these changes going forward.”

If the NESC doesn’t expand to include some of these new technologies in its standards, some committee members worry it will lose its relevancy.

For example, the code so far has not really dealt much with distributed generation and renewable energy. But Harris says a representative from a company involved in large-scale solar generation joined the NESC committee last year, and an NESC member has attended solar industry events to make sure the committee is staying abreast of issues in that area.

With today’s pace of change, Hyland thinks it may be necessary to consider revising the code more often than every five years, possibly updating some sections every two years or so. He points out that the National Electrical Code, which is administered by the National Fire Protection Association and applies to in-home wiring, is updated every three years.

“Things get done very quickly in today’s world,” Hyland says. “We can’t sit back and say, ‘I had a great idea; I’ll put it in the next cycle, and maybe it’ll get into the code in 2022.’ That’s not going to fly, especially with the younger generation in the industry.”

He thinks the future may include developing apps or other digital systems to allow users to more easily access relevant parts of the code. The NESC is already used as a reference in about 100 countries, but Hyland believes expanding its use in other parts of the world could help bring standardized, safe power delivery to countries where that is still a challenge.

Protecting people

When you look at the history of the code in the U.S., its record of bringing safer practices to the industry is clear, Vogel says.

“If you go back to when the code was started, it was actually pretty graphic in that the editions listed what the deaths were and where,” she says. “There was a real need to put in safety rules to keep people from being killed.”

Harris believes the code also may have played a role in the spread of electrification across the nation. “There would have been a lot more injuries and fatalities and a lot more property damage without the NESC. Both workers and the public would have been at greater risk,” he says. “If people had had the perception that electricity is just too dangerous, that may well have put the brakes on electrification across the country.”

From the 1940s to the 1970s, the code underwent relatively few significant changes, Harris says, reflecting an industry that continued to operate much as it had for several decades. The changes have been more frequent since the industry began a period of change.

With all that, Vogel says there are some things about the NESC that haven’t changed. “Everybody who works on the code is very conscious of it being about protecting people and being a safety code,” she says. “That’s the theme that was there in the beginning, and that still exists to this day.”

Reed Karaim writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

,

National Electrical Safety Month

It’s May – and Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are celebrating National Electrical Safety Month. While safety for our members is top priority year-round, Electrical Safety Month is a time to acknowledge the importance of safety excellence.

This year, we’re focusing on electrical safety in the home. Electricity is the cause of over 140,000 fires each year, resulting in more than 500 deaths, 4,000 injuries and 1.6 billion in property damage, according to Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI).

There are many measures you can take to ensure the safety of your loved ones. Use these helpful tips from ESFI to safeguard your home.

In the kitchen

  • Vacuum refrigerator coils every three months to eliminate dirt buildup that can reduce efficiency and create fire hazards.
  • Ensure all countertop appliances are located away from the sink.
  • All appliance cords should be placed away from hot surfaces. Pay particular attention to cords around toasters, ovens and ranges. Cords can be damaged by excess heat.
  • The top and the area above the cooking range should be free of combustibles, such as potholders and plastic utensils. Storing these items on or near the range may result in fires or burns.

Light the way to safety

  • The wattage of the bulbs you use in your home should match the wattage indicated on the light fixture. Overheated fixtures can lead to a fire.
  • Check lamp cords to make sure they are in good condition – not damaged or cracked. Do not attempt to repair damaged cords yourself. Take any item with a damaged power cord to an authorized repair center.
  • Extension cords should not be used to provide power on a long-term or permanent basis. Have additional receptacles installed by a professional to provide power where needed.

Be prepared

  • Nearly two-thirds of fire deaths result from fires in homes without working smoke alarms. Smoke alarms should be located on every level of your home, inside each bedroom and outside each sleeping area.
  • Test smoke alarms every month. Batteries should be replaced at least once a year – or sooner if indicated in the manufacturers’ instructions. All smoke alarms should be replaced at least every 10 years.
  • Talk to your family about an emergency plan in the event of a fire in your home. If you have small children, include them in planning an emergency escape route – they are more likely to remember the plan if they’re involved in creating it.

Electrical safety awareness and education can save lives. For more tips and information about electrical safety, click here or visit www.esfi.org.

,

Geared up for safety

Can you imagine working a job that requires you to lift heavy equipment and perform detailed tasks near deadly high voltage? Now imagine doing this 40 feet in the air, and sometimes, in extreme weather. This is the life of a lineman.

These brave men, and women, answer when called – and they do so to ensure that you are provided with safe, reliable electric service. But how do they stay safe when working in these conditions? Tennessee electric cooperative linemen are required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times when on the job to keep them safe.

Let’s take a look at a lineman’s PPE.

Fire resistant (FR) clothing. While our linemen do everything possible to prevent them, unexpected fires can happen. Fires typically occur with an arc flash – an explosion that results from a low-impedance connection to a ground phase in an electrical system. FR clothing will self-extinguish, thus limiting injury due to burn.

Insulated gloves. Linemen must wear insulated rubber gloves when working on any type of electrical line. These gloves provide protection against electrical shock and burn, and are tested at 30,000 volts. Protective gloves, usually made of leather, are worn over the insulated gloves to protect the rubber from punctures and cuts.

Hard hat. No matter how tough or “hardheaded” our linemen are, they still need protection. Insulated hard hats are worn at all times to protect them from blows and falling objects.

Steel toe boots. These heavy-duty boots are typically 16 inches tall and designed with extra support in mind. The height of the boot shields linemen from gouges, and serrated heels provide a better grip when climbing poles. The steel toe provides sturdier support and protects from objects that could potentially pierce the feet. .

Safety goggles. Linemen must wear protective goggles or glasses, whether working on electrical lines or clearing rights-of-way. This protects them from loose debris and other hazards.

These items make up a lineman’s basic PPE. While working on electrical lines, they also may be required to wear equipment belts, tool pouches, safety straps and other types of equipment. A lineman’s gear usually weighs about 50 pounds – that’s a lot of extra weight when working in hazardous conditions.

So, the next time you see a lineman – be sure to thank him or her for keeping the lights on. But more importantly, thank them for the hard – and often times dangerous – work they do, day in and day out.

Abby Berry writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

,

Five tips for space heater safety

As temperatures drop this winter, many will look for supplemental heating sources for their homes. Space heaters can be a good alternative for those who want to warm one area of their home without turning up the thermostat on the central heating system. However, space heaters are also responsible for 32 percent of house fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. If you are planning to use a space heater in your home this winter, review these tips from Tennessee’s electric cooperatives to keep you, your family and your property safe.

Materials – What are the components of your space heater made of? Parts like metal grating can be hot to the touch and may burn anyone who gets too close. Make sure you purchase a heater that is cool to the touch and has guards over the coils just in case little fingers get too close.

Placement – While it can be tempting to place a small heater on a shelf so it is not in the way of pets and children, it is safest to leave the heater on a level floor on a nonflammable surface. Keeping the space heater on the floor can keep it from falling over, preventing fire hazards. Also, remember that space heaters and bathrooms are not a good combination, unless the heater is designed for bathroom use. Moisture can damage the heater.

The most important rule about space heater placement is the three-foot rule. Whether you are using the heater in the bedroom, living room or kitchen, space heaters should always be kept three feet away from flammable materials and out of the way of children and pets.

Special Features – Does your space heater have an auto shutoff function if tipped over? Auto shutoff can be a lifesaver. If you currently own a space heater without auto shutoff, consider purchasing a heater with this important safety feature.

Cords – You should never use an extension cord when plugging in a space heater as it can cause overheating. The space heater should be plugged directly into a wall outlet, and should be the only thing plugged in to the wall outlet. Also make sure cords aren’t in a high-traffic area so they are not a tripping hazard.

Use – Never leave a heater unattended while in use. If you are leaving your home or going to bed, make sure to unplug the heater.

Following these tips and making sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions can keep you safe this winter.

April Lollar writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service organization for the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

,

Holiday cooking safety tips

The kitchen is the heart of the home. Sadly, it’s also where two out of every five home fires start. Many home fires occur during what’s supposed to be the happiest time of the year – the holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas and Christmas Eve hold a tradition of cooking, and safety should always be considered in the kitchen. As we embark on the holiday season, Tennessee’s Electric Cooperatives and the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) urge you to use these simple safety tips to identify and correct potential kitchen hazards:

  • Never leave cooking equipment unattended, and always remember to turn off burners if you have to leave the room.
  • Supervise the little ones closely in the kitchen. Make sure children stay at least three feet away from all cooking appliances.
  • Prevent potential fires by making sure your stovetop and oven are clean and free of grease, dust and spilled food.
  • Remember to clean the exhaust hood and duct over your stove on a regular basis.
  • Keep the cooking area around the stove and oven clear of combustibles, such as towels, napkins and potholders.
  • Always wear short or close-fitting sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can catch fire.
  • To protect from spills and burns, use the back burners and turn the pot handles in, away from reaching hands.
  • Locate all appliances away from the sink.
  • Plug countertop appliances into ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)-protected outlets.
  • Keep appliance cords away from hot surfaces like the range or toaster.
  • Unplug the toaster and other countertop appliances when not in use.
  • Be sure to turn off all appliances when cooking is completed.

For more important safety tips to keep you and your family safe this holiday season and throughout the year, visit www.esfi.org.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is a 501(c) (3) organization dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety in the home, school, and workplace. ESFI proudly engages in public education campaigns throughout the year to prevent electrical fires, injuries and fatalities.

 

safetytips

,

Safety for All

By Meghaan Evans

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives have always been dedicated to providing safe, reliable and affordable utility service to you, our member-owners. The lengths we go to keep you, your family and our linemen safe are a point of pride for us and are never taken lightly.

From acquiring new equipment and implementing new procedures – including installation of new breaker systems that react more quickly in case of a disruption – to increasing awareness of back-up generator systems within the cooperative community and supporting the Rural Electric Safety Achievement Program (RESAP), America’s electric cooperatives strive to promote the highest standard of safety.

A lot has changed for the electric utility industry in the United States over the last 130 years. In the 1880s, power came to New York City through the direct current (DC) supply method. Direct current supply required generation stations to be within a mile of a consumer’s home, which was great for city residents – but not so great for those living in the suburbs or rural areas.

Because of its inability to travel long distances – and the higher cost – the DC system eventually lost out to the more economical alternating current (AC) system. The AC system allowed power to travel across greater distances through the use of transformers located at power stations. These transformers required higher voltage to pass through stations in order to bring power to homes at the end of the wire. This increase in voltage spurred the need for increased electrical safety procedures.

High voltage is considered in the U.S. to be a voltage above 35,000 volts. Designations of high voltage also include the possibility of causing a spark in the air or causing electric shock by proximity or contact.

High voltage wires and equipment are a constant danger for cooperative lineworkers, but they can also pose a danger to cooperative members. That is why electric cooperatives are proud to be at the forefront of electrical safety equipment development, as well as electrical safety education.

Line crews participate in monthly training sessions and courses to ensure that employees are constantly reminded of the safety aspect of the job and the importance of using equipment in the safest manner possible.

In addition to safety training for employees, electric cooperatives are continuously raising awareness of electrical safety in our communities by performing demonstrations at local schools and community events. There, we show members just how easy it is for an accident to occur when working with electricity and how to prevent these dangerous, and sometimes deadly, mishaps. We also increase awareness of electrical safety by engaging with volunteer fire departments, emergency medical teams and sheriff’s departments on a regular basis, offering education courses and demonstrations. These programs keep service men and women, as well members of the community, safe.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives know that the more people we have in our communities who are knowledgeable about electrical safety, the safer we all will be. That’s why we strive, every day, to raise awareness of, and encourage development in, electrical safety.

Meghaan Evans writes on consumer and cooperative affairs 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.

,

Teach your children well about electrical safety

Electricity is a dynamic power source. We live our lives surrounded by it, but sometimes we forget just how dangerous electricity can be. Many home electrical fires, injuries and electrocutions can be prevented when we understand and practice electrical safety. This is especially true for our youngest co-op members.

Throughout the year, not just in May during National Electrical Safety Month, Tennessee’s electric cooperatives offer many value-added benefits to help teach youngsters about electricity. But as your child’s first and most important teacher, perhaps it’s time to have a talk with your sons and daughters to reinforce those lessons.

Start at an early age, teaching them about the physical dangers associated with electrical components and how to handle electrical plugs, outlets, switches and other devices. Keep in mind, talking to your children about electrical safety should also include fun activities and facts about the basics—what is electricity, the need to respect its power and how to use it efficiently as they study, work and play.

As we all know, kids will be kids. Getting them to show interest in some of these lessons won’t be easy. Just remember that what your children learn from you today can be a lifesaver later when they encounter potential hazards like downed power lines in their path, play hide-and-seek behind those big metal electrical boxes in the neighborhood or are tempted to clamber up a utility pole.

Gather your youngsters around the kitchen table or on the front porch—some of the best teachable moments about electrical safety can happen in and around your home. Look around. There are plenty of opportunities to demonstrate safety that are as close as the electrical outlet on your living room wall. For example, show young children how plugs work, and let them know that even if they are curious about the slits of an electrical outlet, nothing else should be placed inside. Each year about 2,400 children end up in the emergency room after suffering injuries caused by inserting objects—paper clips, pens, screws, nails, forks, hair pins, coins and more—into electrical receptacles. That’s about seven children a day who sustain injuries ranging from electric shock to burns.

But this isn’t the only electrical mishap that impacts youngsters. Our reliance on electronics and gadgets have left both youngsters and their parents at risk when they overcrowd electrical outlets, continue to use frayed wires, place devices near liquids or leave electronics on for long periods of time. Some of the same guidelines co-ops offer to protect adults also help protect children. We should all set good examples for our youngsters.

Supplement your lessons at home with resources galore; including those provided by your local electric co-op. The Electrical Safety Foundational International (www.esfi.org) is among the many national organizations offering free kits, videos and interactive online tools that make learning and practicing electrical safety fun for you and your children. And as they grow older, remember to keep teaching them about the power of electricity and how to use it safely.

,

Practical Pointers for National Electrical Safety Month

May is National Electrical Safety Month, and Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are joining with the Electrical Safety Foundation International to raise awareness about potential home electrical hazards and the importance of electrical safety. This year’s campaign, “Back to the Basics,” challenges consumers to make home electrical safety assessments a priority.

According to the Consumer Electronics Association, the average home today has a minimum of three televisions, two DVD players, at least one digital camera, one desktop computer, and two cell phones.

“Modern homes run on electricity, but if you don’t properly maintain your electrical products they can create hazards,” warns Trent Scott, director of corporate strategy with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The good news is that eliminating electrical hazards from your home doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive.”

Many homes and their electrical systems were built before most modern-day home electronics and appliances were even invented. Today’s increased demand for energy can overburden an older home’s electrical system.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives offer the following tips to help identify and eliminate electrical hazards to protect yourself, your family, and your home:

  • Make sure entertainment centers and computer equipment have plenty of space around them for ventilation.
  • Use extension cords as a temporary solution, and never as a permanent power supply.
  • Do not place extension cords in high traffic areas, under carpets, or across walkways, where they pose a potential tripping hazard.
  • Use a surge protector to protect your computer and other electronic equipment from damage caused by voltage changes.
  • Heavy reliance on power strips is an indication that you have too few outlets to address your needs. Have additional outlets installed by a qualified, licensed electrician.
  • Keep liquids, including drinks, away from electrical items such as televisions and computers.

Electrical safety awareness and education among consumers, families, employees, and communities will prevent electrical fires, injuries, and fatalities.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) sponsors National Electrical Safety Month each May to increase public awareness of the electrical hazards around us at home, work, school, and play. ESFI is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety. For more information about ESFI and electrical safety, visit www.electrical-safety.org.