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- Stay in the car!
Neighbors Beth and Missy were heading home after playing pickleball at a school gymnasium. They’d traveled this stretch of their county road together a hundred times over the years. But this drizzly morning was going to be like none before. With their homes almost in sight, they topped a hill. Suddenly, three deer lept into the roadway from an adjacent cornfield. Startled, Beth slammed on the brakes and veered to avoid them, but her tires slid on the wet pavement. Into the roadside ditch the SUV went, stopping with a thud. Its rear end came to rest against one of the utility poles lining the road. Both women were unhurt. They hugged in relief. Then, they did something that could have turned this property damage accident into a multiple fatality: They stepped out of the car. “Stay in the car, stay in the car, stay in the car!” is the mantra Southeastern Indiana REMC wants drivers to remember. “Whenever a power line is involved, even a minor accident can become tragic,” said Brandon Linville, Director of Operations at Southeastern Indiana REMC. “Staying put for all involved, and warning passersby to stay away, too, cannot be stressed enough. Do not get out until after first responders and/or utility workers arrive on the scene and say it’s OK to do so.” Staying put may go against a driver’s first inclination. You want to get out and check the car. But stepping out of the car immediately after striking a utility pole may KILL YOU. Here’s why: Power lines can fall. When a pole is struck, power lines and hardware can break loose from their insulated perches atop the pole. Fallen power lines can still be energized. Even touching the ground, power lines can be carrying 7,200 volts or more. They may not spark or buzz. Fallen power lines are hard to see. When knocked down and twisted with tall grass or trees as a background, especially at night, power lines are almost impossible to see. Electricity seeks the quickest path to ground. If you get out of the car and touch a live power line and the ground, you become that path. That amount of electricity passing through you can kill you instantly. If you are alive, you are safe. Immediately after a collision with a utility pole, you may not know if power lines have broken loose and are on your car. But if you are alive, you are not that deadly “path to ground.” If you were in that path, you’d already be dead. Stay put and stay safe. Call 911. After hitting a pole, call 911. Tell them you hit a pole and wait patiently. Tell passersby to stay back. First responders will see if power lines are down. If lines are down, they will call and wait on the utility’s responders to arrive before they can even approach the car. Beth and Missy were fortunate. The impact didn’t break the pole or damage its hardware; the wires held tight. Had they fallen, the two women probably never would have known what hit them — and killed them. Making a safe escape from downed power lines If your car comes in contact with a utility pole, power lines may have fallen. If that happens, stay in the car and call for help. A fallen power line could still be energized and could be energizing your car. If you step from the car, you could become electricity’s path to ground and be electrocuted. Only if the accident has caused a fire or there is another immediate threat to your safety should you exit the car. To be safe, here is how you must exit: Open the door without touching the metal of the door frame. With both feet together, hop out and away from the vehicle so no part of your body touches the vehicle and the ground at the same time. Maintain your balance. Keeping your feet together, slowly shuffle away so the toe of one foot moves forward along the length of the other foot. Keep both feet in constant contact and always touching the ground. Keep shuffling 30 or more feet until you are away from the car and power line. Be watchful for low-hanging power lines or lines on the ground. Source: ESFI.org What to do if you hit a utility pole If your vehicle comes in contact with a utility pole or a downed power line, the most important thing is to stay inside the car! Stepping out could electrocute you if your car is touching energized lines. While you wait for help: DO gather your wits. DON’T open the car door or reach out the window. DO call 911 if you have your cell phone. Tell them you’ve struck a utility pole and power lines may have fallen. DO tell passersby to stay back. They might walk right into a fallen energized line.
- Get Smart About Home Lighting
Gone are the days when a simple flip of the switch was the only choice for illuminating our homes. While we still have this tried-and-true option, we’ve entered a new era of innovative and intelligent technologies, which includes smart lighting. Smart lighting connects to Wi-Fi and offers an array of cutting-edge functionality and convenience. Let’s look at the main benefits of smart lighting options. Smart lighting is energy efficient. Most smart bulbs utilize LED technology, which is much more efficient than traditional incandescent lighting. Additionally, smart lighting gives you more control over how and when you light your home, ultimately resulting in less energy used for lighting. Smart lighting provides convenience and control. Most smart bulbs can be controlled from an app on your smartphone or can be paired with your voice assistant, like Amazon Alexa. You can conveniently control lighting settings from anywhere in your home or when you’re away. Whether you want to set a schedule for lighting or adjust brightness levels, these smart options offer effortless control from the comfort of, well, anywhere! Smart options empower you to personalize home lighting. Bright, warm, purple, green––whatever mood you want to create, smart lighting can help. For a more traditional look, try dimmable white bulbs. If you want to create the perfect ambiance for movie night, look for bulbs that can be adjusted for a variety of vibrant colors. The possibilities are endless. While smart lighting offers convenience and control, keep in mind your wall light switch will need to stay “on” for you to control the smart bulb from your phone or via voice command. To use a smart bulb, the wall switch it’s connected to must be “on” so the bulb receives power, which enables it to connect to a Wi-Fi network. If you need additional options to operate the lights, consider a smart light switch. Today’s smart switches tend to play nicely with smart bulbs. If you want to control your smart bulbs with a physical switch (in addition to using your phone and voice commands), look for smart switches that include a built-in feature that allows both. Many smart light switches include motion detectors as well. If you’re looking to take the plunge and integrate multiple smart bulbs to your home lighting system, your best bet may be a kit, like the Philips Hue Starter Kit. Most kits include several bulbs and any additional tools you’ll need to get started. If you’re new to smart home tech and looking to start small, try a smart bulb in a high-traffic area of your home. It’s also worth noting that smart plugs are a great starter option and allow convenient control of lamps or other lighting fixtures that are plugged in to a wall outlet. Smart plugs are inexpensive and simply plug in to your existing outlet. Electrical items that are connected to the smart plug can be controlled from a smart phone app, just like smart bulbs. Whether you’re looking for more convenience, colorful options or better ways to manage energy use, smart lighting can provide multiple benefits. Determine which smart lighting features are most important for your needs, then start shopping! By Abby Berry
- Stay safe when setting sail
Electrical safety is probably the last thing that crosses anyone’s mind on a leisurely summertime boat ride. But because water and electricity are a deadly combination, before taking off, brush up on some boating safety rules. “It’s critical you stay away from electric power lines and other electricity sources whenever you go boating,” said Brandon Linville, Director of Operations at Southeastern Indiana REMC. “After all, besides being a popular ingredient for summertime fun, water is a good conductor of electricity. Even when you’re on a boat, electricity still tries to reach the ground below to the bottom of the body of water.” Boaters should constantly be aware of the location of power lines. That means paying close attention when raising or lowering the boat’s mast or spar and ensuring drying sails and sheet lines don’t blow into power lines. “When docking your boat, enlist the help of another person to help guide you at least 10 feet away from all power lines,” Linville said. Among other boating must-dos: While on the water, be cognizant of signs which indicate where underwater utility lines are located. Don’t anchor your boat near them. Are you wishing to go fishing? Again, check for overhead power lines first — then cast your line. If your boat accidentally comes in contact with a power line, whatever you do, don’t jump in the water. Stay on board and don’t touch anything made of metal. Don’t leave the boat until it has moved away from the power line. If you notice a tingling sensation while swimming, the water could be electrified. Get out quickly, avoiding metal objects like ladders. Equipment leakage circuit interrupters protect swimmers nearby from potential electrical leakage into the water around your boat. Consider installing them on your boat. To make sure your boat’s electrical system is in ship shape, periodically have a professional marine electrician inspect it. It should meet local and state safety codes and standards. Make sure all the boat’s AC outlets are three-prong. All electrical connections should be in a panel box, so contact is avoided. Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) should be installed on your boat — as well as on the dock. When using electricity near water, use portable GFCIs labeled “UL-Marine Listed.” Test all GFCIs once a month. Danger in the water If there is something wrong with the wiring in or near boats or docks, the electric currents can flow into the water. Though the water molecules don’t conduct electricity, electrons are carried through the water by ions. As those electrons move, they create electrified water. When the human body comes in contact with electrified water it conducts electricity. As a result, the victim can completely lose muscle control, suffer from ventricular fibrillation and die from electric shock. That’s why you should never swim near electric-powered boats or docks. Here are some tips to prevent electrical injuries on boats and in the water: No swimming near docks or boats. Notice a tingling sensation while swimming? Get out of the water quickly, avoiding metal objects like ladders. Just as you do at home, when on your boat, don’t use frayed or damaged cords or any cords that have had the prongs removed. Install GFCIs on your boat and have them tested once a month. Equipment leakage circuit interrupters protect swimmers nearby from potential electrical leakage into the water around your boat. Consider installing them on your boat. To make sure your boat’s electrical system is in ship shape, periodically have a professional marine electrician inspect it. Source: Electrical Safety Foundation International Is your boat properly equipped? If you own a boat, it’s important to familiarize yourself with Coast Guard regulations. Complying isn’t difficult, but it does take planning. If you own a vessel measuring 16 to 24 feet, make sure the boat contains the following: Registration Life jackets (one Type III per person, Coast Guard approved) At least one Type IV flotation device (a throwable device in case someone falls overboard) A sound-producing device, such as a horn or whistle (preferably whistles without cork, as cork tends to swell) A fire extinguisher in good condition Flares “When boating, it’s also important to keep in mind that you’ll often find electricity nearby,” Brandon Linville, Director of Operations at Southeastern Indiana REMC, warned. “Everyone knows the two don’t mix, yet thousands of accidents occur each year that result in injury or death.”
- Happy camping means keeping electrical safety in mind
Camping gets us into the great outdoors and lets us leave civilization behind. Yet, for personal preferences or medical reasons, many of us still want or need the modern conveniences or necessities electricity provides. Fortunately, most popular campgrounds have electricity at individual sites. For “off-grid” camping, generators and solar panels are becoming more portable. “Even when we’re trying to get away from it all,” said Brandon Linville, Director of Operations, at Southeastern Indiana REMC, “most of us want at least a small refrigerator or an air mattress inflator, or our CPAP so we’re not keeping the entire campground awake with our snoring. Those things need electricity, and using electricity anywhere requires the same mindfulness as when we’re at home.” Here are some things campers should keep in mind: Before you go Make sure a fire extinguisher is included with your gear. A general ABC fire extinguisher will cover ordinary combustibles, like wood and grass, and fires involving electrical current. Make sure the extension cord you plan to run from the hookup to your tent is heavy enough to handle the load you intend to plug into it. It should have three prongs and a built-in ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) as an added safety measure. Be aware and observant Once you arrive at your campsite, inspect the electrical hookup for any damage. For tent camping, a 30-amp hookup is probably the most you’ll need, and it should have a GFCI installed. Make sure the extension cord to your tent doesn’t create a trip hazard. Also, keep it away from the campfire, the drive lane and water. Recreational vehicle (RV) hookups may have a 50-amp outlet designed for larger RVs. If you need an extension cord, make sure it is rated the same or higher than the supply cord plugged into the hookup. Using an insufficient size can underpower devices or overheat wires. Always use a quality RV surge protector between the hookup and your RV. Don’t be a statistic According to the Centers for Disease Control, every year around 400 to 500 people die in tents and campers from carbon monoxide poisoning. Culprits are generally heaters that malfunction in RVs or fossil-fueled electrical generators. Make sure your RV is equipped with fire and carbon monoxide detectors. Off-grid camping is becoming more popular, and portable generators make it easier. Be sure to choose portable generators with automatic carbon monoxide shutoff systems. Keep the generator outside and as far away from doors and openings as possible. Always position the generator so fumes are pointed away and downwind from your RV, tent and people. Be aware of any neighbors and keep fumes pointed away from them, too. “Ticks, mosquitoes, poison ivy and scratches might come with camping. But so do fireflies and starry night skies,” Linville said. “Having electricity when we camp has many benefits — we just have to keep in mind safety, too.” Don’t be too ‘social’ about your vacation Whether you vacation at a National Park campground or seaside resort, traveling is always exciting. Most people love posting travel photos and selfies on social media. But letting the whole world know you are on vacation is like putting a sign in front of your house saying, “rob me.” Don’t put your home at risk. Keep it under wraps until you return. Those photos of you at the Grand Canyon can wait a few days before you show them to the world. Be weather aware when camping Nothing strikes fear in a camper’s heart more than powerful cracks of thunder in the middle of the night. Avoid setting up camp if strong storms are predicted in the area. In case of lightning, take shelter in your vehicle or an enclosed structure; don’t seek shelter under trees. In addition, high winds will not only shake your tent and rattle your RV, but they can also bring down limbs or dead trees. In rare but tragic cases, campers have been killed in their tents by falling timber. Before pitching your tent or parking your RV, look up and around and avoid camping near dead trees or under “widow maker” limbs dangling above. Learn ahead of time if a campground has a storm shelter and how to get to it from your campsite. For tornado warnings, go to the shelter. If there is none, seek shelter under sturdy permanent structures, such as overhanging rock formations, culverts and bridges. If the storm is right on you, find a ditch or low area, crouch with your knees and forehead to the ground and cover the back of your head and neck with your hands clasped.
- Take care charging your electric vehicle
Do you recall all the safety rules you were taught about refueling when you first learned to drive: shut off the engine; don’t smoke; don’t leave the pump unattended; don’t overfill? If you are among the growing number of drivers sliding in behind the wheel of an electric vehicle (EV), different “refueling” considerations apply. The most basic electrical safety lesson is that electricity and water don’t mix. However, EVs and their charging stations are designed to handle whatever Mother Nature throws your way, be it dust or rain. However, there are precautions to think about when charging an EV, whether you are in your garage or at a public charging station. “You might not have to worry about spilling gasoline or setting off an explosion at the pump,” said Jon Elkins, vice president of safety, training and compliance at Indiana Electric Cooperatives. “But, just as when you use anything electric, there are a few things to keep in mind.” Using a level 1 charger plugged into your garage’s 120-volt/15-amp outlet is the easiest way to charge your vehicle, though it is the slowest. Always use the charger provided by the vehicle’s manufacturer. Before you plug into any electrical outlet, have a qualified electrician inspect and verify the electrical system (outlet, wiring, junctions and protection devices) for heavy duty service according to your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Check the electrical outlet and plug while charging and discontinue use if the electrical outlet or plug is hot, then have the electrical outlet serviced by a qualified electrician. In addition, always follow the manufacturer's guidelines when charging. Some of the most common are: Do not use extension cords, multi-outlet power strips, surge protection strips or similar devices. Do not use an electrical outlet that is worn or damaged, or one that will not hold the plug firmly in place. Do not use an electrical outlet that is on a circuit with other electrical loads. The level 2 electric vehicle charger uses 240 volts and 20 to 40 amps. This will recharge the car more quickly. You will probably need to have a qualified electrician install the charger and a separate service and plug at your home, like the 240 service for an electric range, water heater or clothes dryer. Before using a public charger, always inspect it first to make sure it doesn’t appear damaged. EV charging stations are designed so the cable remains de-energized until it’s connected to the port on the vehicle. Once connected, the vehicle starts communication with the device, conducting measurements to determine everything is safe and working properly, and only then will it begin the flow of energy. Electric vehicle charging in the rain Feeling apprehensive about charging your electric vehicle in the rain? Don’t be: EVs are engineered to withstand water intrusion and the charger won’t let electricity flow till the car says it’s safe. Nissan’s Leaf, for example, has an IP (or Ingress Protection) rating of 67. The IP rating is applied to a wide variety of items we use daily. The first number, ranging from 1-6, rates the item’s ability to keep out dust and dirt with 6 being the best. The second, ranging from 1-8, rates protection against liquids. The highest number, 8, is reserved for equipment made to be submerged. So, the Leaf’s IP 67 rating more than exceeds anything you’d encounter when plugging your EV into a charging station in the rain. EV Charging 101 Switching over to an electric vehicle allows you to “fill ’er up” with kilowatts at a fraction of the cost of gasoline. But just as fuels come as gas, diesel, or E85, or in different octanes, electric vehicles have three general types of chargers. GoElectricDrive.com, which promotes EV awareness, has outlined the three currently commonly used. Level 1: Charger uses a standard 120-volt outlet. All drivers can charge their EV at Level 1 at home, which requires no extra equipment or installation. On average, a full charging time is about 8 hours — but varies by model. Consult the automaker’s website for more information. Level 2: Charger uses a 240-volt outlet. Homeowners may decide to install a charging station — also known as Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) — in their home. This requires professional installation of an outlet type commonly used by large appliances like electric ranges and dryers. There are also many Level 2 chargers across the United States in public areas. On average, full charging time varies from 2 to 6 hours. Level 3: These “DC Fast Charge” networks provide about 80 percent of a vehicle’s potential battery power in about 15 minutes. They are reserved for commercial and industrial settings.
- Prioritize Safety Year-Round
At Southeastern Indiana REMC, we recognize Electrical Safety Month every May, but we also know the importance of practicing safety year-round. From our co-op crews to you, the consumer-members we serve, we recognize that everyone has a part to play in prioritizing safety. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, thousands of people in the U.S. are critically injured or electrocuted as a result of electrical fires and accidents in their own homes. Many of these accidents are preventable. Electricity is a necessity, and it powers our daily lives. But we know first-hand how dangerous electricity can be because we work with it 365 days a year. Safety is more than a catchphrase. It is our responsibility to keep co-op employees safe. Additionally, we want to help keep you and all members of our community safe. That’s why you’ll see Southeastern Indiana REMC hosting safety demonstrations at community events and in schools throughout the year, to demonstrate the dangers of electricity. We discuss emergency scenarios, such as what to do in a car accident involving a utility pole and downed power lines. We caution students on the dangers of pad-mounted transformers and overloading circuits with too many electronic devices. Electricity is an integral part of modern life. Given the prevalence of electrical devices, tools and appliances, here are a few practical electrical safety tips. Frayed wires pose a serious safety hazard. Power cords can become damaged or frayed from age, heavy use or excessive current flow through the wiring. If cords become frayed or cut, replace them, as they could cause a shock when handled. Avoid overloading circuits. Circuits can only cope with a limited amount of electricity. Overload happens when you draw more electricity than a circuit can safely handle––by having too many devices running on one circuit. Label circuit breakers to understand the circuits in your home. Contact a qualified electrician if your home is more than 40 years old and you need to install multiple large appliances that consume large amounts of electricity. Use extension cords properly. Never plug an extension cord into another extension cord. If you “daisy chain” them together, it could lead to overheating, creating a potential fire hazard. Don’t exceed the wattage of the cord. Doing so also creates a risk of overloading the cord and creating a fire hazard. Extension cords should not be used as permanent solutions. If you need additional outlets, contact a licensed electrician to help. We encourage you to talk with your kids about playing it safe and smart around electricity. Help them be aware of overhead power lines near where they play outdoors. Our top priority is providing an uninterrupted energy supply 24/7, 365 days per year. But equally important is keeping our community safe around electricity. Contact Southeastern Indiana REMC for additional electrical safety tips or if you would like us to provide a safety demonstration at your school or upcoming community event
- Give line crews lots of room: It’s the law
Spring has arrived with its profusion of color: whites and pinks … and orange — lots of orange — as in the orange of work zones. National Work Zone Awareness Week (April 17-21) reminds motorists to be careful around those whose jobs put them along the roadways. Indiana’s electric cooperatives remind motorists that work zones also include utility crews who work along the roadsides to build, repair and maintain the highway of electric power lines. Sometimes, crews can be around the next corner or just over the hill — day or night. “While routine line work is done during daylight hours, emergencies happen at anytime,” said Brandon Linville at Southeastern Indiana REMC. “We want to remind motorists our crews can be working at all hours and to be careful when they see warning signs and flaggers.” When motorists see the orange diamond-shaped work zone warning signs and vehicles with flashing amber lights, they should slow down and prepare for the zone ahead. Indiana law requires motorists to approach cautiously and change lanes away from emergency vehicles if they can do so safely. If not, they should reduce their speed to 10 mph under the posted speed limit and proceed with caution. Motorists should not stop in the roadway; this may cause a rear-end collision with other vehicles. Emergency vehicles protected by the law include: • Police vehicles • Ambulances • Fire trucks and rescue equipment • Highway incident-response vehicles • Highway maintenance vehicles • Utility service vehicles • Tow trucks Violating the law can result in a fine and a suspended license. Steeper penalties, including jail time, are enforced for infractions within work zones. Though move-over laws are only for emergency vehicles, drivers should always be courteous to those parked on the shoulder. Give them room to safely repair their vehicles and help prevent tragedies. “Working on energized power lines at all hours and in all kinds of weather is dangerous enough for lineworkers,” added Linville. “We ask folks to please not make it more dangerous by speeding so closely by them.” Sources: Indiana State Police, Workzonesafety.org, moveoverlaws.com Slow down driving through work zones — it’s the law! The Indiana Work Zone Safety Law sets steep penalties for driving infractions within highway work zones. Here are the consequences if you’re caught breaking the law: First time citations for speeding in a work zone result in a $300 fine. The fine increases to $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for a third offense within three years. Motorists who drive recklessly or aggressively through a work zone face fines up to $5,000. Drivers who injure or kill a highway worker may end up paying a $10,000 fine and serving up to six years behind bars. Source: www.in.gov Tips for driving safely in work zones Take extra care to pay attention and expect the unexpected. Work zone configurations can change without notice. Don’t text or talk on the phone and avoid taking your hands off the wheel. Watch for speed limit reductions, narrowing lanes, changing traffic patterns and highway workers. Respect the posted speed limits and safely merge as soon and as safely as possible. This will allow traffic to flow smoothly. Keep in mind: Driving 45 mph, instead of 55 mph, through a 5-mile work zone will only add 1.2 minutes to your trip. Speeding and aggressive driving are major causes of work zone crashes. Keep a safe distance on all sides of your vehicle and maintain a safe following distance. Rear-end collisions are the most common type of work zone crash. Respect the flaggers and obey their guidance. Be patient when driving through work sites with flagger control. Pay attention to the road signs. Those signs are carefully selected to give drivers accurate information and important warnings. Expect delays and allow extra travel time to travel through work zones. Select alternate routes, if possible, to avoid the work zone completely. Source: www.in.gov
- Efficiency Upgrades to Help You Save This Summer
Spring and summer are opportune times for home upgrades and DIY projects. If you’re planning to make improvements to your home, consider upgrades that promote better efficiency. Here are a few projects that can help you save energy and money––and increase the comfort of your home. Installing a smart thermostat is one of the simplest ways to manage home energy use and keep summer bills in check. Smart thermostats are easy to install and allow you to control your heating and cooling system from your phone. You can purchase an ENERGY STAR®-certified smart thermostat for as low as $100, which can save you 8% on annual heating and cooling costs, about $50 per year. This upgrade will quickly pay for itself, and you’ll gain insight into better ways to heat and cool your home. Speaking of smart, additional devices like smart LED bulbs also offer convenient control and help boost energy savings at home. With smart lighting, you can set a schedule for when and how your lights should be turned on or off. And the next time you head out to run errands and realize you left the lights on, all you have to do is turn them off through your phone. Smart lights come in a variety of shapes, colors and brightness levels––and you can purchase bulbs for indoor or outdoor use. Schedule outdoor smart lights to illuminate your home at night and when you’re out of town for better security. While it’s not as trendy as incorporating smart technologies, sealing air leaks around your home is a simple, effective way to save energy and lower your bills. Applying new (or replacing old) weather stripping around doors and windows can instantly make your home more comfortable and reduce energy waste. Applying caulk to fill gaps can also improve the seal of your home. Caulk can be applied to a variety of areas, including windows, doors, bathtubs and sinks. If your home feels too warm during summer (and too chilly during winter) even after you’ve sealed with weather stripping and caulk, your home may need additional insulation. Insulation is considered a more expensive efficiency upgrade; however, if your home is under-insulated, additional insulation can make a big impact on reducing energy use and costs. The cost of new insulation depends on a variety of factors like materials, size of the home and whether you use a contractor. Typically, the project costs can be recouped in a few years and your home will immediately feel more comfortable. Of course, there are additional efficiency upgrades that can make a big impact on energy use, like replacing old appliances with ENERGY-STAR® models or replacing old, leaky windows with new, energy efficient windows. But these upgrades can be a bit pricey. If you’re wanting to make your home more energy efficient but you’re not sure where to start, your best bet is to enlist the help of an expert to conduct an energy audit of your home. An energy audit can easily identify areas to boost efficiency, and then you can determine the projects you want to tackle first based on your budget and needs. Abby Berry writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56% of the nation’s landscape.
- Preparing for winter storms
When winter arrives, Hoosiers are never sure of what to expect. Indiana winters include everything from heavy snows, to freezing rain, to ice storms — sometimes all in one day. All of those forms of winter weather can create electrical hazards warns Southeastern Indiana REMC. “Being safe around electricity is a year-round need, but Indiana winters include many dangerous hazards, especially where power lines are concerned,” said Brandon Linville, Southeastern Indiana REMC. “Snow and ice often accumulate on power lines, and the added weight may cause them to snap off the power poles, or to cause the poles to break,” Linville explained. “That can bring power lines into contact with the ground, trees, homes, vehicles and other objects. If people or pets come in contact with a live power line, they can suffer serious injury or even death.” During dangerous conditions, many residents may be confined to their homes for days at a time. That’s why it is important to have a plan in place, especially during these prolonged outages. To better prepare for a power outage, your electric co-op recommends members keep a storm preparedness kit fully stocked. The basic supplies in this kit should include: Bottled water Non-perishable food Emergency blankets First aid kit/medicine Flashlight Battery-operated or hand-crank radio Extra batteries Toiletries Now that your family is prepared for a prolonged outage, what should you do if the lights do go out? Keep warm air in and cool air out by not opening doors to unused rooms. Do not open doors to the outside unless necessary. Food safety is also important when there is a prolonged outage. Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible and eat perishable food first. If you know a winter storm is coming, stock up on ice so you can keep things in coolers to keep them from going bad if an outage lasts longer than a day. Once the refrigerator reaches temperatures higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, foods can become unsafe to eat. To protect homes’ electrical equipment during an outage, turn off and unplug all unnecessary electronics or appliances. This will keep equipment from being damaged by surges or spikes when the power returns. Know how long your home healthcare supplies will last and have a backup plan. Plan for a safe alternative source such as a portable battery or generator if electricity is not available. Plan to get to a health care facility should your health worsen or if you are going to run out of necessary power. Sources: Electrical Safety Authority, Popular Mechanics When in doubt, throw it out: food safety reminders during an outage During an outage: First, use perishable food from the refrigerator. Perishables should have a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below to be safe to eat. Use food from the freezer after consuming refrigerated food. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half-full) if the door remains closed. If it looks like the power outage will continue beyond a day, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items. Keep food in a dry, cool spot and cover it at all times. After an outage: Throw away any food (particularly meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that has been exposed to temperatures higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more, or that has an unusual odor, color or texture. Never taste food or rely on appearance or odor to determine its safety. If it has been at room temperature too long, bacteria causing food-borne illnesses can quickly grow. If you are not sure food is cold enough, take its temperature with a food thermometer. If it is colder than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, you can refreeze it. Source: American Red Cross Generator safety: Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Keep these devices outside, away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide (CO) to come indoors. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO buildup in the home. Although CO can't be seen or smelled, it can rapidly lead to full incapacitation and death. Install CO alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide.
- Play it Safe: 10 Do’s and Don’ts When Using Portable Generators
Storm season is upon us, which means greater potential for power outages. If you’re planning to use a portable generator in the event of an outage, Southeastern Indiana REMC reminds you to play it safe. With proper use and maintenance, portable generators can provide great convenience during an outage. However, when generators are used incorrectly, they can be extremely hazardous. In a 2022 report, the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated 85 U.S. consumers die every year from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning caused by gasoline-powered portable generators. Here are 10 do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when using portable generators: DO: Install backup CO alarms. DO: Keep children and pets away from portable generators at all times. DO: Position generators at least 25 feet outside the home, away from doors, windows and vents that can allow CO to enter the home. DO: Ensure your generator is properly grounded. Use a portable ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to prevent electric shock injuries. DO: Use three-pronged extension cords that are rated to handle the load of the generator. Inspect extension cords for cuts, frays or other damage before use. DON’T: Operate a generator inside your home or an enclosed (or partially-enclosed) space. Generators produce high levels of CO, which can be deadly. DON’T: Open windows or doors while the generator is running. DON’T: Rely on generators as a full-time source of power. They should only be used temporarily or in emergency situations to power essential equipment or appliances. DON’T: Overload generators. They should only be used to power essential equipment. Make sure your generator can handle the load of the items you plan to power. DON’T: Connect generators directly into household wiring unless you have an appropriate transfer switch installed. If a generator is connected to a home’s wiring without a transfer switch, power can backfeed along power lines and electrocute utility lineworkers making repairs. While generators provide convenience during power outages, they can quickly become hazardous––even deadly––if improperly operated. Before you operate a portable generator, be sure to thoroughly read the owner’s manual for important safety information and tips. If you have questions about proper use of portable generators, we’re here to help. Give us a call at 800-737-4111 or contact us at email@example.com.
- Spring into safety on the farm
Planting season is at hand for many of Indiana’s roughly 94,000 farmers. While you prepare to plant the crops that keep the world fed, Southeastern Indiana REMC reminds you to keep safety in mind — especially when working around electricity. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 62 farm workers are electrocuted each year in the U.S. “Farm worker deaths and injuries can be prevented by practicing some simple electrical safety measures around farm,” said Brandon Linville, Director of Operations, Southeastern Indiana REMC. Here are some helpful safety tips for farmers to keep in mind this season: Make sure farm equipment like planter arms and sprayers safely clear overhead power lines. Some clearances may have changed since the last time you entered the field. The tall equipment can easily become entangled in power lines and pose an electrocution risk. Keep a minimum of 10-foot distance from power lines in all directions. Consider asking your electric cooperative to move overhead lines around buildings or frequently used pathways. Keep a safe distance from power poles and guy wires. If your equipment strikes and damages a guy wire or power pole, do not try to fix it yourself. Call your electric cooperative to make the repair. If your farm equipment becomes entangled with power lines, call 911 immediately. Keep others away and remain calm. DO NOT try to exit the equipment or touch someone who has had electrical contact. If you must exit the equipment for life-threatening reasons, jump out and away from the equipment and make sure to land with your feet together and touching. Then, shuffle at least three tractor lengths away with your feet touching. NEVER attempt to get back into or touch equipment that is in contact with a power line. If you are planning a controlled burn, mow and remove vegetation at least 15 feet around any pole prior to burning and apply fire retardant to the area as recommended by the manufacturer prior to burn period. Do not directly spray or treat a pole. Should a burn get out of control and endanger poles or other equipment, call 911 immediately. Do not allow the fire to cross under power lines in large areas. Smoke contains carbon particles which can conduct electricity. If the concentration gets high enough around power lines, an electrical discharge from the line to the ground, similar to lightning, can occur. Such discharges have killed firefighters. When working below power lines with water hoses, extreme care must be taken to keep water streams out of overhead lines. Water will conduct electricity and the water stream will act as a conductor. SOURCES: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Virginia Cooperative Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Evergy, Kansas State University Know what to do if electrical contact occurs If you’re inside machinery that comes in contact with a downed power line: If you can, drive safely away from the downed power line and the source of electricity. Travel at least three tractor lengths, or about 40 feet, before stopping. If you can’t drive or you are injured, stay where you are inside the equipment until help arrives. If you must get out of the machinery because of a life-threatening reason such as a fire, don’t touch the machinery and the ground at the same time with any part of your body or clothing. With the door open, prepare to jump. Stand up, elbows tucked into your stomach and your hands held close to your chest. Jump out and away from the machinery, taking care to land with your feet together and touching. Don’t stumble. Shuffle away with your feet touching each other and the ground. Don’t stop until you’re at least three tractor lengths away from the machinery. Call 911 and ensure that no bystanders come within 40 feet of machinery. Once away from the equipment, never attempt to get back on or even touch the equipment. If you’re outside the machinery when you notice a farmer comes in contact with a downed power line: Stay at least three tractor lengths away. Tell the person on the machinery to stay where he or she is. Call 911 and ensure no bystander moves within 40 feet of machinery. Keep your planned burn under control Controlled burns can be a beneficial way to clear a field of debris. But they must be planned carefully and correctly. Here are safety tips if power lines are nearby: Mow and remove vegetation at least 15 feet around any pole and apply fire retardant to the area as recommended by the manufacturer prior burning. Do not directly spray or treat the pole. Do not allow the fire to cross under power lines in large areas. Smoke contains carbon particles which can conduct electricity. If the concentration gets high enough around power lines, an electrical discharge from the line to the ground, similar to lightning, can occur. When working below power lines with water hoses, extreme care must be taken to keep water streams out of overhead lines. Water will conduct electricity and the water stream will act as a conductor. Should a burn get out of control and endanger poles or other electrical equipment, call 911 immediately.
- Don’t underestimate the risk of overloads
It’s a common problem for most of us: relying on a handy dandy extension cord since we have so many devices and not enough outlets to plug them all into. But we at Southeastern Indiana REMC warn you for safety’s sake, extension cords should only be used short-term. “It’s easy to grab an extension cord when you’ve run out of outlets,” said Brandon Linville, Director of Operations. “Their convenience is undeniable. But relying on them day-in-and-day-out means your home doesn’t have enough outlets.” Why is that a potential problem? Electrical overloads can occur when your home draws more electricity than a circuit can safely handle. When a circuit receives too much electricity, it causes the circuit breaker to trip. That shuts power off to the entire circuit. Breakers are critical components to the circuit’s safety. If there were no breaker in the circuit, an overload would occur, causing the wires to overheat. That could lead to a fire. There are several signs which could indicate whether circuits in your home are overloaded. Among them: • Flickering, blinking or dimming lights. • The outlet switch covers are warm to the touch. • Burning odors from outlets or switches. • Frequently tripped circuit breakers. • Crackling, sizzling or buzzing from receptacles. • Mild shock or tingles after touching appliances, receptacles or switches. • Power tools, appliances or electronics seem to lack adequate power. If any of these things are occurring, head to your circuit panel. It’s usually located in the basement or garage. Check to see if any of the switches in the panel have been tripped or partially tripped. Turn them off — then back on again. Knowing what is on each circuit will help you navigate possible overloads in the future. Southeastern Indiana REMC suggests consumers grab a notepad and pencil to map their home’s circuits. Do this before potential problems occur. You’ll be glad you took the time to familiarize yourself with the circuit panel ahead of time. Source: Electrical Safety Foundation International Extension cord safety 101 Keep extension cords away from water. Teach older kids how to safely plug in and unplug an extension cord — look out for exposed wiring and never yank on cords. Do not plug too many things into an extension cord. Are your gaming consoles, phone charger and computer all on one extension cord? You might want to consider moving them to other outlets. If your home is displaying signs of having an overloaded circuit, have a qualified electrician do an inspection. A heavy reliance on extension cords could indicate you have too few outlets. Source: Electrical Safety Authority, Complete Electrical Solutions How to reset a tripped breaker Many of us understand how to operate our personal electronics, but what about your home’s breaker box? Here’s what to do if your breaker is tripped: Unplug or turn off appliances in the room. Find your main breaker panel and open the cover. Locate the tripped breaker or blown fuse. A tripped circuit breaker will be in the “off” position or in a middle position between “on” and “off.” To reset the breaker, switch it to the “off” position and then back to “on.” If the problem persists, there may be more serious issues. Contact an electrician to identify the problem. Source: Electrical Safety Foundation International