AES Ohio workers show hazards of power lines

Line workers show how they navigate the dangers of 7,200-volt power lines, give safety tips to public

Touching a fiberglass “hot stick” to an electric line fed by a 120-volt generator, AES Ohio meter service technician and union safety representative A.J. Montgomery set off a flame nearly a meter long.

The Thursday demonstration at AES Ohio’s Moraine operations center was meant to “raise awareness of hazards, to increase the understanding of electricity and to show the reality of what we live and work around every single day,” said Bryan Woodford, also a union safety representative and a line leader for the Dayton-area electric utility.

The demonstration to educate the public came just over a month after the storms of March 14, when multiple supercell thunderstorms produced several strong tornadoes across Western and Central Ohio that knocked down numerous power lines. The National Weather Service confirmed an EF3 tornado in Auglaize and Logan counties and an EF2 tornado in Darke and Miami counties. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency in 11 counties after the storm.

The safety event featured a real generator and transformers powering a street light and an outlet board meant to represent a typical residence. The voltages involved could easily have injured or killed anyone.

Fortunately, Montgomery was wearing flame-resistant clothing, rubber gloves that are tested to 20,000 volts every month, and a helmet with a face shield. He also stepped up to the demonstration with thousands of hours of education, training and experience.

“Electricity is invisible,” Woodford said. “When everything is going good, you can’t even tell it’s there. But when something goes wrong, it’s going to let you know real quick.”

That was Montgomery’s cue to start the sparks flying, touching the hot stick to the line, and in a few cases, placing a hot dog (nicknamed “Oscar”) on either the line or live distribution implements. The men also fed 7,200 volts through a tree limb to show the dangers created by the proximity of trees and power lines.

Kite strings and rope can also conduct electricity, Woodford warned — something Montgomery demonstrated with a piece of nylon rope.

Electricity moves at nearly the speed of light — which is 186,000 miles per second. You won’t outrun it, Woodford noted.

First, some of the basics: Stay at least 30 to 40 feet away from downed power lines. Don’t go near a utility pole or anything touching the line. Call 911 if a power line is down. If you are cleaning up after a storm, do not remove tree limbs near downed lines until crews have repaired the damage. Keep others away from downed lines (including pets), and don’t assume power is out because a line is down. In fact, always assume lines are live and dangerous.

Other safety tips can be found at on the AES Ohio website.

AES Ohio has more than 527,000 customers in West Central Ohio.

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