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Are you prepared for severe weather?

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are carefully monitoring the tomorrow’s threat of severe weather. Electric co-op crews will be on standby to restore power if outages occur.

The American Red Cross recommends an emergency preparedness kit with these supplies in case of a prolonged or widespread power outage:

  • Water—one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
  • Food—non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
  • Flashlight (Do not use candles during a power outage due to the extreme risk of fire.)
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medications (7-day supply) and required medical items
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, deed/lease to home, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • If someone in your home is dependent on electric-powered, life-sustaining equipment, remember to include backup power in your evacuation plan
  • Keep a non-cordless telephone in your home. It is likely to work even when the power is out.
  • Keep your car’s gas tank full.

 

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives also remind members to stay away from downed wires or damaged electric equipment and to use caution when running a generator.

Click here to find contact information for your local electric cooperative.

 

On the Safe Side from Touchstone Energy Cooperatives on Vimeo.

Knowing what to do saved their lives

When teenagers Lee Whittaker and Ashley Taylor saw a power line safety demonstration at their high school, they never dreamed what they had learned that day would be put to test. Only days later, Whittaker and Taylor, along with two classmates, were in a car that crashed into a utility pole, bringing live power lines to the ground.

“When people are involved in a car accident, electricity is usually the last thing on their minds,” explains Molly Hall, executive director of the Energy Education Council’s Safe Electricity program. “We’re usually more concerned about whether anyone was injured or how badly the vehicle is damaged. We can forget that by exiting the vehicle, we’re risking exposure to thousands of volts of electricity from downed power lines.”

If you are in an accident with a utility pole, your vehicle may be charged with electricity. If this is the case and you step out of the car, you will become the electricity’s path to the ground and could be electrocuted. Loose wires and other equipment may be in contact with your car or near it—creating a risk for electrocution if you leave the vehicle.

While downed lines can sometimes reveal they are live by arcing and sparking with electricity, this is not always the case. Power lines do not always show signs that they are live, but they are just as lethal.

After an accident, stay in the car, and tell others to do the same. If you come upon an accident involving power lines, do not approach the accident scene. If you see someone approaching, warn them to stay away. Call 911 to notify emergency personnel and utility services. Do not leave your vehicle until a utility professional has told you it is safe to do so.

The safest place to be is almost always inside the car. The only circumstance when you should exit the vehicle is if it is on fire—and those instances are rare. If you must exit the vehicle, jump clear of it with your feet together and without touching the vehicle and ground at the same time. Continue to “bunny hop” with your feet together to safety. Doing this will ensure that you are at only one point of contact and will not have different strengths of electric current running from one foot to another, which can be deadly.

Whittaker, Taylor and their friends survived their accident because they had learned what to do. While they waited more than 30 minutes for line crews to arrive and deactivate the power line, Whittaker and Taylor made sure nobody left the car and warned those who came upon the accident to stay far away.

“Knowledge was crucial in keeping everyone involved in the accident safe,” Hall says. “We want to make sure that everyone knows what to do if they’re in accidents with power poles.”

For more information and to see Lee and Ashley’s story, visit SafeElectricity.org. If you would like to have the TECA Safety Demonstration Trailer at your event, click here.

Tips for a safe and happy holiday season

The holidays are upon us. For many, that means more celebrations with friends and family, travel, decorations, cooking and shopping. Your local electric cooperative wants you to stay safe during the holidays, so here are a few tips to consider as you gear up for the season.

Your co-op can’t guarantee that the hustle and bustle of the season won’t leave you with a few frayed nerves, but it can certainly help you avoid frayed wires.

Inspect your seasonal items

Many of us have treasured holiday mementos that we bring out of storage and proudly display every year. The holidays are also a time when we dust off specialized cooking gadgets that allow us to prepare our favorite seasonal treats. These items are often handed down through generations and might lack modern safety features.

Take a few moments to carefully inspect all your holiday items to ensure everything is in safe, working order. A few things to look out for include:

  • Brittle insulation on wires
  • Rodent damage to wires
  • Chafed or frayed wires, especially at stress points
  • Worn switches with the potential to short-circuit
  • Corroded metal parts
  • Broken legs, unstable bases and other tip-over hazards

Extension cords are temporary

When you asked your teacher for an extension on your term paper, it was a one-time thing, right? The same holds true for extension cords. They are designed for temporary use and should never be used as a permanent or long-term solution.

Never defeat safety devices

There are reasons why some devices have fuses, why some plugs have three prongs instead of two and why one prong is wider than the other on two-prong outlets. When those safety features get in the way of your grand holiday décor plans, you might be tempted to tamper with or defeat those features. Don’t do it! If your plugs won’t fit together, that means they’re not designed to work together. Rather than tampering with a safety feature, find a safe solution.

Look up and live

When working outside with a ladder, be mindful of the location of overhead power lines. Always carry your ladder so that it is parallel to the ground. Before placing your ladder in an upright position, look around to ensure you are a safe distance from any power lines.

Beware of power lines through trees

Over time, tree branches can grow around power lines running along the street and to your home. If those branches come in contact with power lines, they can become energized, too. If your holiday plans call for stringing lights through trees, this can create a safety hazard.

Stay away from your service connection

The overhead wire bringing power from the utility pole to your house is dangerous. Treat this line the same way you’d treat any other power line on our system. Maintain a safe distance — even if that means a small gap in the perfect gingerbread house outline of lights.

Read the fine print

If you take a few minutes to read and understand the specifications and limitations of your lights and other electrified holiday decorations, you can save yourself a great deal of work and frustration in the long run. For example, the tag at the end of an extension cord will tell you if it’s rated for outdoor use, whether it will remain flexible in cold temperatures and how much energy it can safely handle. Similarly, holiday lights will tell you how many strings can be safely linked together.

Don’t forget about the kids… and pets

If you have small children, you’ve probably spent a great deal of time making sure every square inch of your home is childproof. Every cabinet is locked and every outlet is covered. But sometimes the joy of celebrating the holidays with our little ones makes us a little less vigilant about electrical safety. Make sure your holiday décor receives the same level of safety scrutiny you apply to all the permanent items in your home. Curious and mischievous pets can present similar challenges. Make sure Fluffy isn’t nibbling on all those extra wires or using your tree as her personal back-scratcher or jungle gym.

Justin LaBerge 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.

Why co-ops plan outages

Have you ever received a notification from the folks here at your local electric cooperative informing you of a “planned outage?” You may have wondered, “what is a planned outage?” and “why does my electric utility need to perform one?” Occasionally, the equipment we use to bring power to your home needs to be replaced, repaired or updated. When this happens, as a way to keep our crews and you safe, we plan an interruption to electric service.

We do our best to plan these outages during times when you will be least inconvenienced, so we often perform planned outages during school and business hours. We also try to avoid planning these outages during winter or summer months. We understand these are peak times of the year when you depend on running your heating and cooling units the most.

While they may sound slightly inconvenient, planned outages are actually beneficial to you, our members. Regular system upgrades are necessary for optimal performance, and they increase reliability. Repairing and upgrading our equipment is also critical to maintaining public safety. If older lines need to be replaced, we plan for it, repair or replace it, and that keeps everyone safe.

Planned outages also allow us to keep you informed of when and how long you will be without power. We can notify you long before an outage, so you can be prepared. We also keep you aware of when line crews will be working in your area.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives want to make sure we are doing everything we can to keep you safe and to keep our systems running smoothly. So, the next time you hear about a planned outage, know that it is one of the best ways we can provide you with quality electric service.

Meghaan Evans 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.

Shield your home from energy loss with adequate insulation

By Anne Prince

Walls. Floors. Ceilings. Attic. These are some of the prime areas of a home that need insulation in order for you to maximize energy efficiency. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), adding insulation to your home is a sound investment that is likely to quickly pay for itself in reduced utility bills. In fact, DOE estimates that you can reduce your heating and cooling needs up to 30 percent by properly insulating and weatherizing your home.

If your home is more than 20 years old and was not specifically constructed for energy efficiency, additional insulation can likely reduce your energy bills and increase the comfort level of your home. The actual amount of savings for each home depends upon several factors—the current level of insulation, your climate, efficiency of your heating/cooling system and your utility rates. On average, older homes have less insulation than homes built today, but even adding insulation to a newer home can pay for itself within a few years.

So, where do you start?

You first need to determine how much insulation you already have in your home and where it is located. If you need assistance, many electric cooperatives conduct energy efficiency audits for the home and will check insulation as a routine part of the assessment. For those with the DIY spirit, you can conduct an insulation audit yourself using TVA’s eScore self audit.

Here is what you will should be looking for:

  • Where your home is, isn’t, and/or should be insulated
  • The type of insulation in your home
  • The R-value and the thickness or depth (inches) of the insulation

A prime area that is chronically under-insulated is the attic. Whether you live in a cool or warm climate, attic insulation is essential to help keep warm air inside in the winter and prevent hot attic air from heating your living spaces in the summer. If you have R-19 or less insulation in your attic, consider bringing it up to R-38 in moderate climates and R-49 in cold climates. For flooring in cold climates, if you have R-11 or less insulation, consider bringing it up to R-25.

How does insulation work?

Heat flows naturally from a warmer space to a cooler space. During winter months, this means heat moves directly from heated living spaces to adjacent unheated attics, garages, basements and even outdoors. It can also travel indirectly through interior ceilings, walls and floors—wherever there is a difference in temperature. During summer months, the opposite happens—heat flows from the exterior to the interior of a home. Proper installation of insulation creates resistance to heat flow. Heat flow resistance is measured or rated in terms of its R-value—the higher the R-value, the greater the insulation’s effectiveness. The more heat flow resistance your insulation provides, the lower your heating and cooling costs will be.

Save green by going green

Today, you have choices when it comes to selecting insulation for the home, including an environmentally-friendly option made of recycled materials, such as scrap blue jeans. It looks similar to chopped up blue jeans and is treated for fire safety. With an insulating R-value similar to fiberglass insulation, this blue-jean insulation is a great option.

Get started and get saving

While an older home will never be as efficient as a new home, an insulation upgrade will make a noticeable difference in your energy use and wallet. A well-insulated home is one of the most cost-effective means of saving energy and decreasing heating and cooling bills. For more information, contact your local electric cooperative.

 

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Anne Prince 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.

Look up for hazards during harvest

After working in a field on a neighbor’s farm, Jim Flach parked his equipment and stepped out of the vehicle. Sadly, Jim did not realize his equipment was touching an overhead power line, and he became a path for the electrical current as he placed his foot onto the ground. Jim received a severe electric shock that ultimately resulted in his death a few months later. Safe Electricity urges farmers to take the proper precautions when working around power lines.

“The rush to harvest can lead to farmers working long days with little sleep,” cautions Kyla Kruse, communications director of the Energy Education Council and its Safe Electricity program. “It is important to take time for safety. Before starting work, make sure to note the location of overhead power lines.”

To stay safe around overhead power lines, Safe Electricity urges farm operators and workers to:

  • Use a spotter when operating large machinery near power lines.
  • Use care when raising augers or the bed of grain trucks around power lines.
  • Keep equipment at least 10 feet from power lines — at all times, in all directions.
  • Inspect the height of farm equipment to determine clearance.
  • Always remember to lower extensions when moving loads.
  • Never attempt to move a power line out of the way or raise it for clearance.
  • If a power line is sagging or low, call your local electric cooperative.

If contact is made with a power line, stay on the equipment. Make sure to warn others to stay away, and call 911. Do not leave until the utility crew says it is safe to do so. The only reason to exit is if the equipment is on fire. If this is the case, jump off the equipment with your feet together, without touching the ground and vehicle at the same time. Then, still keeping your feet together, hop to safety as you leave the area.

Some additional safety tips from Safe Electricity include:

  • Do not use metal poles when breaking up bridged grain inside and around grain bins.
  • Always hire qualified electricians for any electrical issues.
  • Do not use equipment with frayed cables.

“You need to double check, even triple check, to see what is above you,” says Marilyn Flach, Jim’s widow. His son Brett adds, “Be conscious of your surroundings. You need to keep your eyes open and beware of overhead lines.”

For more electrical safety information, visit SafeElectricity.org.

Safe Electricity is the safety outreach program of the Energy Education Council, a non-profit organization with more than 400 electric cooperative members and many others who share the mission of educating the public about electrical safety and energy efficiency.

2015 E&O Conference

TECA and the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives jointly hosted the 2015 Engineering, Operations, and District Managers Conference at the Music Road Hotel and Resort in Pigeon Forge on Thursday and Friday, July 16 and 17. In attendance were 40 Tennessee co-op employees, 38 Kentucky co-op employees and 23 exhibitors. The conference was kicked off by a welcome from Holston Electric Cooperative’s General Manager Jimmy Sandlin. Attendees received industry updates from the Rural Utility Service, Job, Training and Safety, the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives and the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.  The West Tennessee fiber network, solar power, building and facility security ArcFlash protection and OSHA regulations were also discussed.

“Attending the E&O meeting is important to stay update on rapidly changing and advancing technology that enhances operations of an electric utility, safety issues and regulations,” said Loyd Muncy, Manager of Finance and Administration for Chickasaw Electric Cooperative. “It is a great opportunity to make connections with knowledgeable peers who may one day help me solve issues at my co-op. “

2015 E&O Conference

TECA and the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives jointly hosted the 2015 Engineering, Operations, and District Managers Conference at the Music Road Hotel and Resort in Pigeon Forge on Thursday and Friday, July 16 and 17. In attendance were 40 Tennessee co-op employees, 38 Kentucky co-op employees and 23 exhibitors. The conference was kicked off by a welcome from Holston Electric Cooperative’s General Manager Jimmy Sandlin. Attendees received industry updates from the Rural Utility Service, Job, Training and Safety, the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives and the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.  The West Tennessee fiber network, solar power, building and facility security ArcFlash protection and OSHA regulations were also discussed.

“Attending the E&O meeting is important to stay update on rapidly changing and advancing technology that enhances operations of an electric utility, safety issues and regulations,” said Loyd Muncy, Manager of Finance and Administration for Chickasaw Electric Cooperative. “It is a great opportunity to make connections with knowledgeable peers who may one day help me solve issues at my co-op. “

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.