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.

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.

When winter temperatures drop and storms hit, it can be challenging to stay safe and warm. Winter storm severity varies depending on where you live, but nearly all Americans are affected by extreme winter storms at some point. Tennessee’s electric cooperatives care about your safety, and we want you to be prepared.

Heavy snow and ice can lead to downed power lines, leaving co-op members without power. During extremely low temperatures, this can be dangerous. During a power outage, our crews will continue to work as quickly and safely as possible to restore power, but there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself.

Stay warm

Plan to use a safe alternate heating source, such as a fireplace or wood-burning stove during a power outage. These are great options to keep you and your loved ones warm, but exercise caution when using, and never leave the heating source unattended. If you are using gasoline-, propane- or natural gas-burning devices to stay warm, never use them indoors. Remember that fuel- and wood-burning sources of heat should always be properly ventilated. Always read the manufacturer’s directions before using.

Stay fed

The CDC recommends having several days’ supply of food that does not need to be cooked handy. Crackers, cereal, canned goods and bread are good options. Five gallons of water per person should also be available in the event of an extended power outage.

Stay safe

When an outage occurs, it usually means power lines are down. It is best not to travel during winter storms, but if you must, bring a survival kit along, and do not travel alone. If you encounter downed lines, always assume they are live. Stay as far away from the downed lines as possible, and report the situation to your local co-op.

Winter weather can be unpredictable and dangerous, and planning ahead can often be the difference between life and death. Tennessee’s electric co-ops are ready for what Mother Nature has in store, and we want you to be ready, too. For more winter safety tips, visit www.ready.gov/winter-weather.

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 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.

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.

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.

 

201509_DS_EFFICIENCY_Where_to_insulate_withbasement

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.