Local firefighters were told yesterday to shuffle – not run or walk – when approaching an accident or scene with downed electrical wires.
Being in the midst of hurricane season, National Grid brought its Live Line Demonstration trailer to Warwick to orient first responders to the danger of electricity.
The trailer stopped at Station 8 near Ann & Hope.
Firefighters were warned of the dangers of live wires on the ground distributing electricity through the ground. By shuffling, they could avert a situation where there would be a transfer of electricity through the body because one leg is on the ground with a higher voltage than another. Also, by shuffling there would be a sense of tingling that would alert to the ground being charged.
National Grid demonstrated what could happen if someone did take that step into the circuit by holding a rubber boot to a live wire. It was quickly engulfed in flames.
David Graves, a media representative for National Grid, said, “There is an inherent danger when you are dealing with electricity. There are tens of thousands of volts running through these wires and just because it doesn’t look active doesn’t mean it isn’t.”
He explained that first responders like firemen need to understand the dangers they could face in any situation involving electricity. The demonstration also allows firefighters to have a brief familiarity with National Grid’s equipment.
Graves said, “They are not expected to do our job, but we want them [firefighters] to know how to be safe when they are doing their job. This demonstration has a visual impact that leaves a lasting memory.”
With single touches to running wires, ladders, boots, hot dogs, and fake wooden squirrels caught flame with relatively low voltage. An electrical charge jumped when the ladder touched the power lines. The boot caught fire. The hot dog was cooked through (electricity cooks from the inside out). The entire inside of the hot dog was seared black and half of the dog was burned off.
The demonstration trailer runs at about 4,000 volts. Electrical wires on Jefferson Blvd., West Shore Road, Main Ave., and Strawberryfield Rd. carry 22,000 volts.
Doug Barrington, a National Grid employee, led the demonstration.
Because people are 75 percent water they act as better conductors than any of the test objects.
He said, “Electricity is a theory, not a science. You can never be sure what it is going to do. We are still trying to figure it out.”
The demonstration explained the different situations the firefighters might come across when responding to an emergency from downed wires to power outages and personal generators. They learned that animal interference is a leading cause for power outages, hence the wooden squirrel example.
More than anything, the demonstration was to show firefighters the danger electricity can pose.
Graves said, “You must always assume that a wire is energized and alive. Otherwise, you could be extremely hurt in the process. Always call us first.”
National Grid has 168 overhead line workers and there are 30 round-the-clock positions to help in emergencies.
Barrington said he hopes firefighters would leave with a “situational awareness” and be better able to not only protect themselves, but also the public in matters involving electricity.
Firefighters were prompted to alert anyone within 10 feet of National Grid’s wires or equipment around the city to step away and call National Grid for help.
“It’s best to tell them the second you see it,” Barrington said. “The last thing you want is to have to go back 20 minutes later and find the same guy on the asphalt. Safety, safety, safety always comes first and we want you to be, too.”
Gary Oatley, a firefighter present for the demonstration said, “It was a great demonstration. The visuals were good for learning. We can literally see the dangers up close. We know how to better react for ourselves and for the civilians we serve.”
Battalion Chief Thomas Maymon liked that the demonstration was available when they had some newer firefighters able to attend. It shows them things they have to be aware of. Yesterday was the third and final round of demonstrations for Warwick firefighters.
“Great guys for great training. It is all relative; in an emergency, all of these components come together. We step away from this with more life safety knowledge not just for our firefighters, but also for the public we protect,” said Maymon.