West Florida Electric Cooperative (WFEC) recently partnered with Florida Public Utilities (FPU) to hold safety training for first responders in Jackson County. Similar training was also recently held in Holmes County by WFEC.
“The safety of the cooperative’s employees and members is the absolute top priority at West Florida Electric,” said Donnie Worley, Manager of Loss Control & Risk Management. “With that in mind, we wanted to address the working relationships our line workers have with first responders like firefighters, EMTs, law enforcement and others – these relationships work because the first responders and our line workers are dependent upon one another during emergency situations,” he continued.
The purpose of the training was to explain to the emergency responders – people who don’t deal
with electricity on a daily basis – why there are certain protocols and procedures in place for accidents involving power lines, poles and other electrical equipment, including meters.
“We wanted to give them a better understanding about the specialized training our linemen
undertake in order to be able to perform tasks like pulling meters, shutting off power and working on
energized power lines,” said Worley. 303329002
The course started with the basics of how electricity works and described the electrical equipment used
in the field. The trainers from WFEC & FPU shared scenarios with the first responders and showed them what it is like to put hands on the line by bringing a miniature distribution line display (photo on cover). Instructors also explained what breakers, reclosers, fuses, transformers and jacks are and how the power line equipment works. These instructors also demonstrated the personal protective equipment or PPE each lineman must wear to perform his job safely.
“The class was amazing. The fact that the team brought out an entire distribution prop to train with helped our crews understand the system more,” said George Gay, Captain with the City of Marianna Fire Department.
The course also went in depth into the procedures a qualified lineman must do to determine if a power line is de-energized. Working procedures like tagging, testing and grounding procedures were also explained to the firemen, EMTs, law enforcement and forestry department workers who attended the classes.
“We tried to share the knowledge these first responders need to understand how our linemen work and the safety procedures they have to perform once they reach an accident site or fire in order to ensure the lines
are de-energized, ensuring it is safe for them to perform their job - saving lives and property,” said Worley. 67595001
Gay says he took away some very important information from the class including how far electricity can travel through the ground, the extensive testing that is required for tools used around power and the danger of generator back feeding onto lines. He also said one of the most discussed topics among
his employees after the class was the information about step potential.
If you are unfamiliar with step potential, it is the change in voltage as the electricity radiates through
the ground from a downed wire. This difference in voltage can cause electric shock. The wider a person’s
legs are spread, the greater the voltage difference will be. That is why if you must move on energized ground, shuffle or hop while keeping your feet together and touching each other.
“This training was beneficial to us because we have a very young staff that has not had a lot of exposure
to electrical safety training in the past, without this training, they could put themselves and their crews in danger,” said Gay. “We cannot thank WFEC & FPU enough for this training and look forward to future training events together,” he continued.
Gay says that they have decided to hold this training every year or two, so that their staff is updated about all the advancements in electrical safety. Officials from WFEC and FPU also took this opportunity to thank our first responders for the job they do. In addition to keeping the communities we live in safe in a variety of ways, these men and women often serve as traffic control when there are downed lines or other hazardous circumstances near power lines and electrical equipment.