Utility company demos focus on protecting EMS workers in electricity-related disasters –
Story and photos by Patricia Beech –
Electricity powers our world – wherever we work, live, or play, we can access electrical power with the flip of a switch or the turn of a dial. While that equals convenience, it also means that more people are exposed to electrocution accidents which can be deadly, not only for victims, but also for emergency responders.
As a complement to their regular training, EMS workers from across Adams, Brown, and Highland County recently participated in a series of electricity-safety demonstrations conducted by American Electric Power (AEP) at the company’s Seaman location.
The demonstrations were conducted on a scaled-down model of a highway section with three active utility poles. Several hazardous scenarios were enacted which could put rescuers at extreme risk of becoming additional victims, including: how to react to downed power lines, how to approach and exit an energized car, and what to do when buried lines are disturbed by digging equipment.
According to AEP line mechanic Danny Knechtly, the greatest danger to emergency crews in hazardous electricity situations is “what they may not be able to see”.
“These demonstrations show some of the hazards that utility workers deal with every day, many of which are the same conditions EMT’s face when they respond to house fires or car accidents,” said Knechtly. “This information shows them how to recognize those dangers.”
The demonstrations were led by Line Crew Supervisor Greg Williams, who told the attending EMS workers, “You guys have a dangerous job, and we understand when you arrive at an accident scene your first concern is with the victims. We want to make sure that none of you become an unwitting, second victim.”
Williams related the story of a Columbus EMS worker who had been killed while responding to an accident involving live electrical wires.
“He passed under a live wire five times to assist the accident victim, but the sixth time his head made contact with the wire and one tragic victim quickly became two, we don’t want that happening to any of you.”While utility line work is in the top 10 of the most dangerous jobs in America (with approximately 30 to 50 workers in every 100,000 killed on the job every year) electrical hazards cause more than 300 deaths and 4,000 injuries each year among the entire U.S. Workforce.
Studies have shown that too often people are killed trying to rescue others in high voltage situations.