Firefighters are often the first to respond to emergencies, and when it comes to high voltage electricity or a downed power line, they must be ready to secure the scene safely until the arrival of an electricity supplier.
The situation can be deadly if not handled properly.
In an effort to train these firefighters and other emergency response personnel, Black Hills Energy on Tuesday and Wednesday offered five high-voltage safety trainings for area first responders at its local office.
“First responders are the first on the scene,” said Rich Terrian, Black Hills’ operations supervisor. “What happens, we have an accident in the middle of the night, say a car hits a pole, we are usually not the first called. It’s the fire department, it’s the police department, it’s the sheriff’s department and EMS – they’re the first on the scene. We try to put this in place so that we can educate them and show them the dangers of electricity – what to do, what not to do – to make their jobs safer.
He said if first responders are doing their job safely, the public is also safer.
The High Voltage Safety Demonstration explained how to safely respond to incidents involving high voltage electricity and procedures for working safely around downed power lines. The training also covered what to do if occupied vehicles are trapped by a downed power line, the harmful effects of high voltage and how to react safely.
“Keeping first responders safe is the goal,” Terrian said. “That’s what we’re looking for.”
City of Cañon Fire Protection District Lt. Shane Roberts said it’s fairly common for the department to have service calls in which overhead lines are down or damaged.
“Our job is to isolate the hazard and hopefully identify the type of line that is down,” he said. “Black Hills Energy is a great partner with fire departments; this training gives us a refresher on high voltage safety, the equipment used and the latest technologies used in energy distribution. They are the electrical professionals, so we rely heavily on their expertise and experience. We appreciate their efforts to help keep our community safe.
Terrian and Randy Westberg, the electrical technical training manager for Black Hills, also shared safety messages for the general public. They both remind people to stay away when they encounter a dangerous situation.
Westberg said the public should be aware of things that can penetrate power lines, such as kites, mylar balloons and ladders.
“Never touch any wire that’s on the floor,” he said. “Call the electric company, they’re the pros – ask them to come and find out if it’s safe or not.”
Terrian reiterated the message.
“Never come into contact with a wire, no matter what type it is or what you think it is,” he said. “There are a lot of wires on those poles, and unless you’re a professional and know exactly what you’re looking at, you don’t know if that wire is live or not. Make sure you always stay safe.
If in doubt, call the utility company or the local fire station.
“Call us when you do any type of work around any type of power lines,” Terrian said. “We will be happy to go out and disconnect the service so you can cut down the trees – at no cost. If you need service at your place, we can remove that line while you do your job, then call us back and we’ll put it back on.
For more information, visit https://www.blackhillsenergy.com/safety/electric-safety.
Power Line Safety
- Never climb on utility poles, transmission towers or trees near power lines. These structures can deliver a lethal shock.
- Keep ladders, antennas, kites and poles away from power lines. If you hold one of these objects and it comes into contact with a power line, you could receive an electric shock.
- Never attempt to trim vegetation near power lines. Only certified line clearance professionals are permitted to work within 10 feet of energized power lines. All other professionals, arborists, tree trimmers and landowners should not work in this area.
- Assume that any downed power line is live. Never touch or attempt to pick up a dropped line. And never ride over a downed line or under a low line.
- Do not attempt to rescue anyone in contact with a power line. Call the emergency number at 800-890-5554 to report a downed power line.
— Information provided by https://www.blackhillsenergy.com/safety/electric-safety.