When the weather gets hot, we head outdoors for sun and fun. Keep in mind some tips from the Electrical Safety Foundation International to make sure everyone has a safe summer.

Water and electricity don’t mix

Summer is the season for swimming and boating, and awareness of electrical hazards around water can prevent deaths and injuries. Water and electricity don’t mix.

  • Sailboats often have masts of 30 feet or more, which are dangerous when they come into contact with overhead power lines. Look up as you get close to shore, and stay at least 10 feet away from overhead lines. Coming into contact with an energized power line causes serious and sometimes lethal electric shock.
  • Use covers on outdoor power outlets, especially near swimming pools. Keep cords and electrical devices away from the water, and never handle electrical items before you’ve dried off.
  • Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to help prevent electrocutions and electrical shock injuries. These devices interrupt the flow of power when they sense a surge. Portable GFCIs require no tools to install and are available at prices ranging from $12 to $30.

 Lightning and storms

Lightning strikes are fatal in 10 percent of victims, and 70 percent suffer serious long-term effects, according to the National Weather Service. Because lightning can travel sideways for up to 10 miles, blue skies are not a sign of safety. If you hear thunder, take cover.

  • If weather conditions indicate a storm, stay inside—away from doors and windows—or seek shelter in a low-lying area away from trees and any metal, including sheds, clotheslines, poles, and fences. If you’re near water, stay as far away as possible.
  • If you’re in a group, spread out—don’t stand close together.
  • Indoors, unplug electronics before the storm arrives, and don’t use corded phones.
  • Avoid plumbing—sinks, bathtubs, faucets.
  • Don’t forget about your pets. Doghouses are not safe from lightning, and chained animals are easy targets.
  • If your home is flooded during a storm, don’t turn on appliances or electronics until given the okay by an electrician. If there’s laying water, don’t go inside. The water could be energized.

 Working with large appliances

If your air conditioner goes out, keep a few things in mind before you start poking around. Large appliances, such as air conditioners, are responsible for almost 20 percent of consumer-product electrocutions each year.

  • Understand your electrical system—know which fuse or circuit breaker controls each switch, light, and outlet.
  • Make sure circuits are turned off before starting work and take measures to ensure they’re not turned back on while working.
  • Use a circuit tester—always test before you touch.

Find more safety tips at esfi.org.

In a small show of our support and encouragement, the electric cooperatives of Tennessee provided breakfast for 150 recovery workers at Norman-based Oklahoma Electric Cooperative earlier today. OEC serves areas in and around Moore.

The sign below was displayed to let the people at OEC know that our thoughts and prayers are with them today.

sign1Two OEC employees lost their homes, but all employees and their families are safe.

The images and stories coming out of Oklahoma in the past few days have been both heroic and heartbreaking. The recovery is just beginning, and there is certainly a long road ahead for the people of Moore and the surrounding areas.

Duck River Electric Membership Corporation Vice President Michael Watson has been named President and Chief Executive Officer of Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, Board Chairman Brent Willis announced today.

Watson will succeed President/CEO Jim Allison who will retire at the end of June, ending a 13 year career with the cooperative. He will be the eighth manager/CEO in the Cooperative’s 77 year existence.

“Michael has served the cooperative as Vice President for the past year and has proven his exemplary performance as he led DREMC through an extensive technology expansion program and Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) roll-out. He was selected from a pool of more than 50 applicants as the Board of Directors conducted a national search through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Executive Search Program,” Willis explained.

“Duck River Electric is a vital part of the utility infrastructure in the counties and communities it serves in south central Tennessee, providing electricity to more than 71,000 meters. It is critically important that the person heading this organization be immensely qualified and capable of leading the more than 155 employees charged with delivering safe, reliable electric service to the Cooperative’s member owners. The Board of Directors felt that of the many qualified candidates interviewed for the position, Michael is that person,” Willis added.

Watson began his career with Duck River Electric in 1992 as an Electrical Engineer, working in the headquarters Engineering Department. He was later named District Manager overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Shelbyville/Lynchburg District. He then served as Director of Operations prior to being named Vice President in 2012, having direct supervision over the Cooperative’s Engineering and Operations Departments, as well as all five District Managers. He was recently recognized by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) for his outstanding work in research and development in the area of Power Delivery and Utilization, specifically the collection and analysis of data involving power transformer and circuit breaker fleet management.

He is a native of Memphis and a graduate of Mississippi State University with a Bachelors Degree in Electrical Engineering, The University of Memphis with a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering and is a registered professional engineer in the State of Tennessee. Prior to joining Duck River Electric Watson worked with Memphis Light, Gas and Water as a Substation and Protective Relay Engineer. He is married to Dr. Dianne Watson, a Shelbyville Dentist, and they have three children, Ruth, Will and Wes.

“It has been a pleasure working with Michael as he has grown in his responsibilities over the course of his career with DREMC. Because of his knowledge  and experience I feel the cooperative is being left in good hands and there will be a smooth transition as I retire from Duck River Electric,” Allison said.

Duck River Electric, a Touchstone Energy Cooperative, is an electric distribution cooperative with its headquarters in Shelbyville, TN serving all or portions of 16 counties in south central Tennessee with safe, reliable electric service.

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by David Callis, Executive Vice President and General Manager for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association

When you’re immortalized in song, you can reasonably assume that you’ve made it. When a government agency is immortalized in song, well, that’s profound.

The group Alabama did just that for the Tennessee Valley Authority with their 1988 hit, “Song of the South.” One verse reads, “Well Momma got sick and Daddy got down. The county got the farm and they moved to town. Papa got a job with the TVA. He bought a washing machine, then a Chevrolet.”

Simplistic as it is, the song sums up the agency’s transformative power on the Valley. TVA, one of several Depression-era stimulus projects, revitalized our entire region, controlling flooding and bringing low-cost power and wealth through jobs and investment.

Over the decades, TVA also transformed itself. No longer a beneficiary of federal funding, TVA is fully financed through power sales. Valley residents know the value of TVA to the region. It has turned the corner from being a Democratic Depression-era program to become an integral part of our political, economic and utility infrastructure.

Over the decades, TVA programs have touched every aspect of life in the Tennessee Valley — from farm production to uranium enrichment. TVA powered the engine that enabled the U.S. to end World War II. The same agency has provided countless summers of fishing and boating for multiple generations of families.

In the 2014 budget of the U.S. government, President Barack Obama advocates the administration’s intent “to undertake a strategic review of options for addressing TVA’s financial situation, including the possible divestiture of TVA, in part or as a whole.”

We’ve been down this road before with advocates of privatization calling for the dismantling of TVA and selling it to the highest bidder. To be fair, past efforts have come from both sides of the aisle, from both the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch. Even though we “liked Ike,” President Dwight Eisenhower once referred to TVA as an example of “creeping socialism” and told friends in private, “I’d like to sell the whole thing.” TVA privatization even figured into the 1976 Tennessee Republican presidential primary between Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.

Selling TVA to the highest bidder seems like a quick fix for those outside the Valley or to those who are unable or unwilling to look at the facts. Transforming a publicly owned utility that sells electricity at cost into a for-profit entity isn’t a good solution for Tennessee ratepayers.

TVA has dealt with challenges before: recovering from an overexpansion of a nuclear program in the 1980s and weathering the deregulation and restructuring of the electric utility industry of the 1990s and the Kingston ash spill a few years ago. The agency has streamlined operations over the years: The number of employees has declined, and TVA is managed by a part-time board that is more diverse than ever. TVA may have issues to deal with, but we’ll deal with them together — they affect all of us.

Though the federal government owns TVA, the ratepayers in the Tennessee Valley provided the funds that constructed the generation assets and world-class transmission system. The ratepayers have paid back the original loans from the U.S. Treasury — with interest. If there is a divestiture of TVA, it should be a transfer to those ratepayers. It’s ours; we built it.

Simply put, TVA may be federally owned, but it is ratepayer-built.

Mike Knotts, director of government affairs

While the Tennessee Legislature is in session, I focus much of my time on the goings-on at the Capitol in Nashville. While it’s nice to spend more time at home this time of year, there are some important developments in Washington, D.C., that impact your cooperative.

Power Marketing Administrations

In the August 2012 edition of this magazine, I discussed the threat to the future of the Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs). The PMAs, owned by the federal government, are a byproduct of the public service that a dam built to control flooding provides to all citizens. The water that flows through the dam can be used to turn a turbine and generate electricity. That electricity is then sold to utilities at a price that is only high enough to cover the extra costs of producing it. That cheap power helps keep overall electric bills low and is a real success story in developing multipurpose infrastructure that benefits all our citizens.

Last year then-Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu proposed a program that would radically change the focus of the PMAs from producing low-cost, reliable and renewable electricity. His proposal added a smorgasbord of requirements unrelated to the sale of that power — things that were only vaguely connected to water spilling through a dam. It was a bad idea, and most of Tennessee’s members of Congress voiced their concerns.

Today, Secretary Chu has resigned, and President Barack Obama has nominated Dr. Ernest Moniz to replace him. During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy Committee, Dr. Moniz stated that the “first priority” of the PMAs is providing lowest-cost power. When Sen. Mike Lee of Utah pressed further and asked whether Dr. Moniz would advocate policies that could significantly raise PMA rates, Dr. Moniz said, “No … I don’t believe we would if it’s something that the PMAs and their customers don’t agree with.”

This is good news for us, and you can be sure we will make sure Dr. Moniz remembers his words.

Rural Utility Service

Another program that has been a true success story over the years is the Rural Utilities Service (RUS). In the 1930s, electric cooperatives were born as a part of the first true “public-private partnership” devised by the government. Recognizing that rural electrification was essential to the future of the country and that existing power companies were refusing to extend electric service to the vast majority of rural America, the federal government decided to encourage the development of locally controlled, member-owned electric cooperatives as a solution to the problem. This encouragement came in the way of low-interest loans that helped these new co-ops install the poles and wires that literally lit up the countryside. The cooperatives paid back the funds — with interest — which made additional money available to fund loans to other cooperatives.

Part of the Department of Agriculture, RUS continues this program today. Because this model has been so successful, the RUS loan program now generates excess money for the Treasury and is helpful in reducing our national budget deficit.

Unfortunately, President Obama does not want to leave well enough alone. In his recently released budget, the president proposes to limit the uses of this loan fund in such a way that would render it almost useless. His budget in 2012 proposed nearly the same language, but Congress had sense enough to ignore it.

With the rest of the federal government hemorrhaging cash, this is not the time to tinker with a program that has been overwhelmingly successful. Lowering the deficit and keeping electric bills low are mutually beneficial goals that we all can support. I’m optimistic that Congress will again ignore this bad idea.

Tennessee Valley Authority

As you may have read on page 4 of The Tennessee Magazine, the president also made a surprise suggestion in his budget document. He suggests a possible sale of the Tennessee Valley Authority. While David Callis sums up the issue nicely in his column, I would also add a slightly more technical point:

The budget proposed to launch a study of the possible divestiture of TVA “in part or as a whole.” The problem for the president? What he proposed is against the law. The Urgent Appropriations Act of 1986 included language that requires the express consent of Congress to undertake such an action.

Hopefully, this proposal will end up like the other ill-conceived plans to privatize TVA — in a trash can at the White House.