Firefighter training brings home dangers of power lines

June 22, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Faster than a microwave oven, and with a lot more sizzle, a high-voltage power line can cook a hot dog in much the same manner - from the inside out.

"Anybody hungry?" asked Adams County Electric Cooperative lineman Randy Hoover after removing the slightly blackened frankfurter from the 7,200-volt demonstration power line set up outside a warehouse at Letterkenny Army Depot.

What the electricity did to the hot dog essentially is what happens to a human being when they come in contact with a power line, said Marvin E. Snyder, a line supervisor for Adams Electric.

"I've seen a couple of those in my career, and you don't forget it," Snyder told members of the Letterkenny Fire Department.


The demonstration was part of the department's training Wednesday for National Firefighter Safety Stand-down Day, Letterkenny Fire Chief Danny Byers said.

"As a fire department, we're stopping all of our operations except emergency responses" to take additional safety training, Byers said. Half of the department's 24 members participated Wednesday, with the other half scheduled to take the training today, he said.

Adams Electric set up the portable demonstration power line, a teaching tool it takes to numerous fire departments and schools to show the hazards power lines pose, Snyder said. Each year, about 1,800 people are electrocuted in this country, he told the firefighters.

Handymen and tree trimmers are among the victims killed or injured when trying to clear branches from around power lines, Snyder said. Linemen demonstrated how a piece of wood with a moisture content of as little as 5 percent can conduct enough electricity to light a light bulb mounted on one of the poles.

A damp kite string and other objects were used to show how dangerous amounts of electricity can pass through them. One of the most common ways in which people come into contact with power lines is vehicle accidents, Snyder said.

"If you're in your car and it leaves the road, one of these poles will almost magically hit it," Snyder said.

In any case where a line is down or damaged, "The best thing to do is keep people clear and notify the electric company," he said. "If a wire is on the ground, consider it hot."

Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner Ed Mann also was slated to address the firefighters Wednesday on the "Courage to Be Safe ... Everyone Comes Home" program, Byers said. Developed by the Fallen Firefighters Memorial Foundation, the program highlights 16 safety initiatives, he said.

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