By CRISTIN REECE
There’s a killer in our midst. Most of us have encountered it ever day of our lives. It hangs over our heads and snakes under the very ground we walk on. We’ve even invited it into our homes and businesses. And it could kill any one of us in less than an instant.
That’s right, it’s electricity.
Oncor Electric Delivery representatives held a couple electricity safety seminars for the city of Palestine’s emergency responders and other city departments this week in an effort to keep electrical safety fresh in their minds.
“Safety is our number one concern at Oncor,” Oncor Area Manager Brenda Walker said. “We can tell people not to go near power lines, not to touch lines, about the damage high voltages can do — you just really have to see it to believe it.”
Oncor Journeyman linemen Andy Luce and Mike Mannix demonstrated the power of electricity with several electric arcing demonstrations, using a pair of mobile electric transformers to make arcs of electricity, simulating how electricity moves when a “hot” wire comes into contact with another item.
“The main point is do not touch any power line, especially downed ones, even if you think it’s dead,” Luce told members of the city’s fire, street and utilities departments during the second seminar held Wednesday morning. “It’s just not worth your life.”
Arcing demonstrations included examples of common items that might come into contact with an electric line, including both green and dry branches, aluminum ladders, construction vehicles (in the form of a metal toy truck), chain link fence, even kite string and rope.
The duo also showed how certain types of clothing materials, including blended cotton/polyester cloth and a baseball cap react to 5,000 volts running through them and what 14,000 volts can do to a body — using a hot dog to simulate a human finger inside a faulty rubber glove. (The hot dog was incinerated, the cloth melted, and cap caught on fire.)
Luce also demonstrated the best way to exit a vehicle that has come into contact with a downed power line.
“Do not exit the vehicle unless your life is in danger from fire or other reason,” he said. “If you have to vacate the automobile, jump out, don’t get out one foot at a time. Then move away from the vehicle in a shuffle, keeping both feet in contact with the ground at all times.”
One audience member asked how far away should a person shuffle away from the vacated vehicle before they’re safe.
“Man, I’d do it ’til I was out of sight,” Luce replied to chuckles from the audience. “Unfortunately there’s no guaranteed, fool-proof method. These are just ways that could help in these types of situations.”
Palestine Fire Chief Alan Wilcher organized the seminars and invited city and county emergency responders and other departments to participate.
Seventeen-year veteran firefighter Lt. Devin Jackson said he appreciates the opportunity to refresh his knowledge.
“It’s a very common occurrence for us on shift to deal with downed power lines,” he said. “And it’s important to stay cognizant of what the potential threats are.”
Palestine Street Department crewman James Gray agreed.
“It’s nothing I didn’t already know, but it’s always good to keep these issues fresh in your mind,” he said.