Electric seminar shows hazards

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A group of local firefighters, elected officials and everydaycitizens learned Tuesday that there are a lot of commonmisconceptions about electricity and how to safely deal withit.

“If you don’t know a whole lot about electricity, this will makea believer out of you,” said Entergy representative Mike May.

May and fellow safety specialist Steve Sullivan put on ademonstration during which they applied different things to a powerline to show how they would conduct electricity.

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May pointed out that sometimes there are things that make peoplefeel secure around electrical equipment such as rubber gloves, shoesoles, and certain firefighting equipment.

Sullivan, using a long fiberglass safety pole with a metal handon the end, touched the wire with a thick rubber glove with a smallhole in it. As power arced from the line to the hole in the glove,May explained that even a small compromise in a glove can provedeadly to the person wearing it.

Sullivan also demonstrated with a Mylar balloon, an aluminumladder and a tree branch. May said the branch was included to showa common danger people undertake when they deal with their ownlawns after a storm when limbs and power lines are down.

“What we’re most concerned with is after a storm, people want togo right out and pick up the limbs on the ground, but the bestthing to do is to leave it,” May said. “It’s important to wait andclean your yard after the power company has done their work.”

Lightning can also be a danger, May said, and any time there isa storm it is important to seek cover.

“If you’re outside, just get in your home or vehicle and sittight,” he said. “Lightning is strange and can travel for miles.Lightning is one of the most dangerous things there is.”

The Entergy officials also showed the dangers inherent in commonequipment used by fire departments. Power arced down thewooden-handled pike pole used to pull down walls and turn overdebris, and a trail of smoke floated upward from inside one of thethick rubber firefighting boots.

“This gives you a good idea of what not to do,” said BrookhavenFire Chief Tony Weeks. “Electricity is what the power company isthere to fix.

Weeks said he is happy to get his men to any demonstration likethe one Entergy held, because there is a sense of security in theequipment that they use.

“Demonstrations like this give firefighters an elevated sense ofawareness at electric emergencies,” he said. “It’s important forthem to know what’s going on around electrical lines, and to bewatching their P’s and Q’s, so to speak.”

Lincoln County Emergency Management and Civil Defense DirectorClifford Galey said the program was extremely helpful in showingpeople how dangerous electric power can be, and that he hoped thepresentation could be given again in the future when more volunteerfirefighters could attend.

“This is the reason I preach that you have to make sure that ascene is safe first,” he said. “Every time it storms and we’redealing with downed power lines, or even in house fires, thatballoon should show you what a light socket can do.”

Entergy Customer Accounts Manager Kenny Goza said his companydoes the program because its officials know that electricity issomething people deal with every day, and education is the best wayto stay safe.

“Safety is a big priority for us, not just for us but for thecommunity as well,” he said. “We know how easily you can get hurtand we want to make the public and community safety aware.”