Northern Electric in Redfield hosts first responder training and live high-voltage demonstration
By Shiloh Appel
Northern Electric's Redfield office hosted a first responder training and live high-voltage demonstration for the first time on Wednesday evening, July 11th, with 39 local responders in attendance including volunteer firefighters, Spink County Ambulance and Emergency Management.
The evening began with a pork loin meal at 6 p.m. followed by a video and discussion on electrical safety. During the discussion, Northern Electric Manager of Member Services, Russ Ulmer and Member Services Representative, Nick Nielsen answered questions and introduced equipment.
After the discussion, attendees gathered together in the triple digit heat to watch the live high-voltage demonstration.
With a pole, a makeshift metal man and a a live wire with 7,200 volts of electricity running through it, Journeyman Lineman Chris Piehl demonstrated how quickly contact with power lines can cause injury and death. After attaching a grapefruit to the makeshift man to represent a human heart, Piehl touched his pole, which was connected to the power line, to the hand of the man. The contact caused the grapefruit "heart" to immediately glow before bursting into flames. According to Piehl, fruit and vegetables are the closest representation to human flesh and organs in such demonstrations. Afterwards, Journeyman Lineman Shawn Evans cut the grapefruit in half to show attendees the burn path through the center of the fruit before Evans and Piehl repeated the demonstration with a zucchini, potato, and hot dog.
"This is what your finger would look like," said Evans, holding up the electrocuted hot dog.
Piehl also demonstrated what would happen if a kite string or tree branch came into contact with the wire — the kite string was cut with a quick zap, while the tree branch slowly sizzled on the wire.
Going forward, Northern Electric plans to host an annual first responder training day according to NE Communications Director, Ben Dunsmoor .
"We held a similar training for Brown County first responders in 2017. Since our service territory covers mainly Brown and Spink counties, we hope to alternate electrical safety training for first responders between Brown and Spink counties every year," said Dunsmoor.
As for the central message of the evening, Dunsmoor said,"Electricity is a powerful tool that is a necessity for our everyday lives, but we need to be very careful around electricity. If we do not pay attention to the location of overhead power lines, or respect the power of electricity, one wrong decision can be the difference between life and death.”