Safety Trailer Penelc 940x520

Penelec Teaches Firefighters to Stay Safe Around Power Lines

Sept. 22, 2022
Penelec’s custom-built safety trailer features power lines, poles, and transformers to highlight both the visible and hidden dangers of electricity.

Firefighters from across central Pennsylvania recently gathered at the 130th Central District Volunteer Firemen’s Association Convention in Nanty-Glo. The event offered the perfect opportunity for Penelec line workers to demonstrate how to stay safe around electrical equipment using the company’s mobile electrical safety exhibit.

Penelec’s custom-built safety trailer features power lines, poles and transformers to highlight both the visible and hidden dangers of electricity. Firefighters and other first responders routinely encounter the real-life scenarios depicted by the trailer, including aluminum ladders accidentally touching live wires and a metal shovel inadvertently striking an underground power cable. 

During the presentation, a Penelec employee illustrated a common first-response scenario — live power lines down on a vehicle after an accident — using an insulated pole called a “hot stick” to extend a typical rubber firefighter’s glove onto the handle of an energized car door.  

A brilliant blue and orange arc shot from the glove’s fingertip to the metal door with an audible sizzle. The wearer of that glove could have suffered serious, if not fatal, injuries.

This demonstration showed that unlike the rubber gloves and boots used by line workers, those worn by firefighters do not safeguard them from electrical hazards. 

“We want you to be the rescuer, not the victim,” stressed Jeremy Tarbay, a Penelec line worker and safety program narrator.

Whenever power lines are down and in contact with a vehicle, first responders must wait until line workers arrive to safely de-energize any live wires.  

The hot stick also was used to rest the top of an aluminum ladder against a live wire, creating a fiery flare and instantly transforming the ladder into a deadly conductor. This visual helped drive home the importance of following a few crucial steps to stay safe around overhead power lines, including:  

  • Upon arrival at any incident scene, survey the area for overhead power lines

  • Park emergency vehicles as far from any electric lines as possible

  • Use a spotter to monitor the placement of ladders and aerial equipment to ensure they remain a safe distance away from lines when fully extended

At the conclusion of the demonstration, Tarbay issued a pop quiz to a group of young kids watching the demonstration, asking “How far do you need to stay away from downed power lines?”

“Thirty feet!” a girl called out.

“That’s right, about the length of a school bus,” said Tarbay, a reminder that summer is nearly over and eliciting a few groans.  

Safety trailer demonstrations for first responders are just one part of FirstEnergy’s “Stop. Look. Live.”  safety campaign to help educate the public about staying safe around electricity and near power lines and equipment. The campaign kicked off last fall and features engaging and memorable initiatives to help protect groups that are most at-risk of encountering safety hazards, including first-responder organizations and contractors. The campaign also features an educational program for children. For more safety tips, please visit www.firstenergycorp.com/publicsafety.

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