Lightning Strikes 25 million times a year!

The National Weather Service (NWS) reports that every year lightning strikes at least 25 million times, and in the United States alone, an average of 49 people are killed and 400 injured as a result of lightning each year. It is simply not safe to be outdoors during a thunderstorm. That is why NWS advises, “When thunder roars, go indoors.” However once inside a safe shelter, there are additional and important safety steps to take.

Last year, a teenage girl and her family took cover inside of their home during a tornado warning. They thought that they were safe from the effects of the storm until the daughter opened the refrigerator. She let out a scream as there was a loud boom and the house went dark. She had been struck by lightning. Fox 7 in Austin, Texas reports that although the teen is now fine, she was initially rushed to the hospital after being unable to walk, shaking with severe pain from the lightning strike.

Staying inside reduces the risk for lightning strikes, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one-third of lightning strike injuries occur indoors. Safe Electricity recommends the following tips to help keep you safe inside the home during a thunderstorm…

  • During a storm, stay away from anything that conducts electricity inside of the home. This includes corded phones, plumbing, or running water. Cellular or cordless phones are safe to use during a storm.
  • Never use your computer, gaming systems, washer, dryer, or any other appliance that connects to an electrical outlet…

 

September is National Preparation Month – Get Prepared!

September marks the start of National Preparedness Month across the country. One of the best ways to stay one step ahead of storms, power outages, and other emergencies is to plan ahead with an emergency preparedness kit.

The exact contents of your emergency kit may vary according to the dangers and weather most relevant to your region, but Ready.gov recommends that every emergency kit contain these basic items:

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA weather radio and extra batteries
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place…

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Read more information from Safe Electricity

Large Equipment and Power Line Safety!

The equipment used for construction and demolition is often quite tall and can be a conductor of electricity if it gets too close to overhead power lines. As a result, the operators of these vehicles need to take precautions to stay safe from a potentially deadly on-the-job accident from electric shock.

Grand Haven Board of Light & Power urges everyone to be aware of maintaining the appropriate safety clearance distance for large equipment. In 2013, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported that 8.9 percent of all construction fatalities were a result of electrocution. Being aware of and staying safely away from overhead power lines in a work zone can help to save more lives.

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OSHA suggests that the clearance for some large equipment, such as cranes and derricks, be a minimum of 20 feet from overhead power lines. The equipment’s maximum working radius, 360 degrees around the equipment, must be taken into account. A dedicated spotter is very helpful when working in close proximity to overhead lines to help the operator keep the required minimum clearance.

The Grand Haven Board of Light & Power urges large equipment operators to:

  • Know the clearance rules for the equipment you are operating.
  • Use a spotter when operating large machinery near overhead lines to ensure minimum clearance is maintained.
  • Always remember to lower extensions when moving loads.
  • Never attempt to move a power line out-of-the-way or raise it for clearance.
  • If a power line is sagging or low, call the local utility immediately.

If your equipment has made contact with a power line, it is critical that you know what to do. If you don’t know the proper procedures for getting out of the cab, you could be injured or killed. It is almost always safest to stay on the equipment. Warn others to stay away, and call 911 and the Grand Haven BLP utility immediately. The only reason to get off the equipment is if it is on fire. If this is the case, jump off the equipment with your feet together and without touching the ground and equipment at the same time. Then, while still keeping your feet together, “bunny hop” away.

For more information on electrical safety, visit our safety partner  SafeElectricity.org.

Use Mylar Balloons Safely

Reunions, birthdays, weddings, graduations, anniversaries—outdoor celebrations are about spending time with friends and family, recognizing accomplishments, and creating a festive atmosphere with food, music, and decorations. These decorations can include Mylar balloons. Grand Haven Board of Light & Power wants you to know about the potential dangers of Mylar balloons so that you and your loved ones can safely enjoy outdoor celebrations.

Mylar balloons are shiny, metallic balloons, which are often filled with helium. The shiny coating is a good conductor of electricity. If a balloon comes in contact with an overhead power line, it will cause a surge of electricity. These surges cause electrical arcs, explosions, and fires. This creates a dangerous situation for people and can cause power outages that require expensive repairs.

In 2011, one Philadelphia woman experienced the danger of Mylar balloons first hand. According to Fox 29 in Philadelphia, the woman walked out of her home and found her car on fire in the street. The fire was so hot it turned rocks around her car into glass. The blaze started when a power line fell out of place because of a Mylar balloon.

In California, Mylar balloons are so frequently involved in widespread blackouts that state legislators considered banning them in 2008. Pacific Gas and Electric Company reported that in 2010, more than 800,000 Californians experienced outages because of the balloons.

With a little care, you can avoid the disastrous aftermath a Mylar balloon can cause. Follow these tips from Grand Haven BLP when using Mylar balloons:

  • While using balloons, keep them weighted down or tethered far from power lines.
  • When you are done, deflate the balloon and throw it away. Do not release Mylar balloons.
  • Never tie a Mylar balloon to a person’s wrist.
  • Do not attempt to retrieve a balloon, or any object that becomes entangled in electrical equipment. Contact the BLP Emergency Line at 616.842.2241 to help remove the balloon.

To see a video of what happens when a Mylar balloon comes in contact with overhead power lines, and watch Kyle Finley’s Live Line Demonstration visit http://bit.ly/14vPR4W

For more safety tips on Mylar Balloons visit our partner SafeElectricity.org

Staying Safe and Warm During a Winter Storm

This year is already showing us how the polar vortex can bring high winds, sub-zero temperatures, and ice to many parts of Michigan. This dangerous winter weather can cause hazardous road conditions, downed power lines, and extended power outages. Be sure to stay safe before, during, and after a winter storm hits.

If power lines go down because of a winter storm and the electricity goes out, you may be in for a prolonged power outage as utility crews work to get the lights back on.

The National Weather Service tells us that winter storms are deceptive killers because most deaths are indirectly related to storms. Many hazards can remain after a winter storm is gone.

Below are some tips on how to stay warm during a winter power outage:

  • Stay inside, and dress warm.
  • Close off unneeded rooms and place draft blocks at the bottom of doors to minimize cold air entering the house.
  • Cover windows at night.
  • Be aware of the temperature in your home. Infants and elderly people are more susceptible to the cold. You may want to stay with friends or relatives or go to a shelter if you cannot keep your home warm.
  • When the power is restored, there will be a power surge. To protect your circuits and appliances, switch off lights and unplug appliances. Leave one light switched on as a quick reminder that the power is restored.

Apart from the cold, there are other dangers winter storms can bring. Downed power lines could be submerged in snow and ice, making them difficult to see. Therefore, stay indoors if possible. If you must go outside, use caution and treat all downed and hanging lines as if they are energized. Stay away, warn others to stay away, and immediately contact the Grand Haven Board of Light & Power.

Be sure to have a storm preparedness kit ready before a storm strikes to help get you and your family through a power outage. This kit includes: bottled water, non-perishable food, blankets, warm clothing, first aid kit/medicine, flashlight, radio, extra batteries, and toiletries.

If you are using an alternative heating source during a power outage, be sure to know how to use it safely and that you have all needed supplies gathered. You should have enough supplies in your preparedness kit to last three to seven days. The Grand Haven BLP is a proud member of Safe Electricity.

For more information on electrical safety, visit SafeElectricity.org.

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Bright Ideas for Safe Lighting This Season

Sparkling lights and dazzling decorations are hallmarks of the season. Make sure your holiday decorating is done with safety in mind.

Use only holiday lights that have been safety tested and have the UL label. Before decorating, check each light strand for broken sockets, frayed cords, or faulty plugs. Always be sure to unplug the lights when replacing a bulb. Don’t string together more than three standard-size sets of lights or you could risk overheating the circuit.

Outdoors, use only lights, cords, animated displays and decorations rated for outdoor use. Cords should be plugged into outlets equipped with GFCI’s, or use a portable GFCI if your outdoor outlets don’t have them.

Take extra care not to throw strings of lights over tree branches that are near power lines and service connections.

The Board of Light & Power offers these additional tips for safe holiday decorating:

  • Place fresh-cut trees away from heat sources such as heat registers, fireplaces, radiators, and televisions—and water the tree frequently.
  • Match plugs with outlets. Don’t force a 3-pronged plug into a 2-pronged outlet or extension cord, and never remove the third prong.
  • Keep electric cords out of high-traffic areas. Do not run them through doorways, hide them under carpets, or staple, nail, or tack them to the wall.
  • Always unplug lights before going to bed or leaving your home.
  • Make sure extension cords are in good condition and are UL-approved cords rated to carry the electrical load you will connect to them.
  • Don’t let children or pets play with light strands for electrical decorations.

Overloaded circuits are a major cause of fire. Flickering or dimming lights, sparks from appliances or outlets, and wall plates, plugs, or cords that are warm to the touch are warning signs that demand immediate action.

If you spot an electrical danger, make sure to unplug the malfunctioning appliance immediately and get a replacement.

Let’s keep the Holidays Merry & Bright! These Safety tips have been brought to you by the Grand Haven Board of Light & Power, your Community-Owned Electric Utility.

The Board of Light & Power is a member of SafeElectricity.org

LIVE – LAUGH – FARM…and help celebrate National Farm Safety & Health Week, September 15-21, 2014!

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As we think about farmers a quote comes to mind, “Farming: it’s in our Jeans”*. The local farmer usually comes from generations of farmers, and they are vital to the growth of this country. Who doesn’t love the fresh taste of sweet corn, blueberries and apple pie! Therefore, in honor of National Farm Safety and Health Week, Sept. 15-21, Grand Haven Board of Light & Power offers safety tips for farm workers across Northwest Ottawa County Michigan.

One of the biggest hazards for farmers is posed by power lines. Typically, power lines over streets and rural areas have a minimal clearance of 18 feet. To stay safe around overhead power lines, Grand Haven Board of Light & Power urges farm operators and workers to:

  • Use a spotter when operating large machinery…and for underground lines …always call MISS DIG before you DIG!

Avoiding Electrical Dangers during Harvest Season

  • After working in a field on a neighbor’s farm, Jim Flach parked his equipment and stepped out of the vehicle. Flach received a severe electric shock that ultimately resulted in his death a few months later. His equipment was unknowingly touching an overhead power line, and he became a path to ground for an electrical current as he set his foot to the ground. Grand Haven BLP urges farmers and agricultural workers to have a safe harvest season by taking precautions around power lines.**
  • The rush to harvest can result in farmers working long days with little sleep. Make sure you note the location of power lines before you start each day. Before working in a field or around shops or grain bins, always take the time to note the location of power lines, so that you can make sure to remain a safe distance from them.

Farming is one of the most dangerous professions in the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Machinery and vehicles help on the job but also contribute to many farming accidents. Electricity is essential to the operation of a farm but, like so many other tools, can be dangerous. Grand Haven Board of Light & Power encourages farmers to protect themselves from the hazards of electricity and to share electrical safety information with family and workers to help keep them safe this harvest season. Look Up and Look Out to keep your harvest season safe and bountiful!

**Courtesy of Safe Electricity, a program of the Energy Education Council.

* Watch Us Grow an Illinois Farm Family