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.

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.

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.

Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative recently completed their Live Line Safety demonstration trailer.

“We have already hosted a few safety demonstrations for volunteer fire departments, two for CRC co-op camp in Dunlap and a contractor’s meeting hosted by Lowe’s,” says SVEC’s Shelby Potterfield.

The trailer was built by district operations manager Jarvis Wooten and line foreman Dean Cartwright. In the photo, Dean Cartwright shows a group of volunteer fire fighters from Dunlap the importance of a lineman’s personal protective equipment.

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.

Electric Power Associations of Mississippi

Ridgeland, MS

Job Description

 

      Job Title:            Safety and Loss Control Instructor

Department:            Safety and Loss Control

 Reports To:            Vice President, Safety and Loss Control

            Date:            March 1, 2012

 

SUMMARY

 

Administers monthly safety and loss control meetings to all Electric Power Associations in Mississippi. Participates in schools, seminars and other functions as needed. Helps implement the Emergency Work Plan during times of disaster. Responsible for the planning, development and implementation of safety and training programs.

ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPOSIBILITIES include the following. Other duties may be assigned.

Plan, write, organize and teach electric distribution subjects and regulatory compliance to Electric Power Association personnel.

Must be a good communicator and have excellent speaking skills to work with both small and large audiences.

Willing to assist, supervise or train at lineman schools, seminars and other functions as needed by the Association and/or Vice President, Safety and Loss Control.

Conduct safety audits on Electric Power Association crews and facilities and report results to proper personnel.

Must be available to provide disaster assistance to the Associations and be willing to assist in system restoration.

Must be able to provide safety and loss control guidance to system employees that will maximize a safer work environment, compliance and education.

EDUCATION and/or EXPERIENCE

Must possess a minimum of a high school diploma and have a minimum of four years experience with an electric utility, preferably line construction and maintenance.

Must have experience and knowledge of powerline construction including RUS, NESC, OSHA, DOT and EPA regulations

Possessing the qualification or willing to earn the qualification of Certified Safety Professional (CSP), or the NRECA Certified Loss Control Professional (CLCP), is highly desired.

Computer skills, especially in Microsoft PowerPoint, Word and Outlook, is highly recommended.

WORKING CONDITIONS

Work is both inside and outside the Associations. Some irregular hours including night, weekends and holidays may be required.

Extensive travel within the state of Mississippi and limited out of state travel.

Must reside within reasonable commuting distance to the EPA office in Ridgeland.

SALARY

$50K – $65K. Salary to be determined by work related experience, education and pre-qualifications.

CONTACT

Micheal Weltzheimer, CLCP

Assistant to the Vice President, Safety and Loss Control

Electric Power Associations of Mississippi

P.O. Box 3300 – Ridgeland, MS 39158-3300

Fax: (601) 605-8601

[email protected]

NASHVILLE – Tennessee residents are experiencing the first real taste of winter this week, and Tennessee’s electric cooperatives remind homeowners that space heaters can be dangerous when not used properly.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, half of all home-heating fires occur in December, January and February, and heating equipment fires account for 18 percent of all reported home fires and 22 percent of home fire deaths.

Here are a few tips to remember when using space heaters:

  • Be certain that space heaters at least 3 feet away from curtains, furniture and other household items.
  • Select a heater that has been certified by a recognized testing group like Underwriters Laboratories.
  • Do not allow children or pets to play near space heaters.

You can learn more about space heater safety from the National Fire Protection Association.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association is a trade group representing the interests of Tennessee’s 23 electric distribution cooperatives and the 1.1 million consumers they serve.