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PPL exhibit demonstrates dangers of electricity

  • This Live Line Electrical Safety Exhibit was specially designed for PPL Electric Utilities. At the Aquashicola Volunteer Fire Department, Bill Kropa, a troubleman foreman, shows how a tree branch can trip the electric line. Doug Haupt, a damage…
    This Live Line Electrical Safety Exhibit was specially designed for PPL Electric Utilities. At the Aquashicola Volunteer Fire Department, Bill Kropa, a troubleman foreman, shows how a tree branch can trip the electric line. Doug Haupt, a damage prevention specialist with PPL, looks on. KRISTINE PORTER/TIMES NEWS
  • Bill Kropa, a troubleman foreman with PPL Electric Utilities, shows how digging in the ground and hitting an electric line could cause the electricity to arc and start a fire. The person holding the handle of the shovel would be shocked with…
    Bill Kropa, a troubleman foreman with PPL Electric Utilities, shows how digging in the ground and hitting an electric line could cause the electricity to arc and start a fire. The person holding the handle of the shovel would be shocked with electricity. Chris Schillinger, a damage prevention specialist with PPL, watches. KRISTINE PORTER/TIMES NEWS
Published May 18. 2017 02:45PM

The Aquashicola Volunteer Fire Department hosted more than 180 firefighters and emergency personnel from Walnutport to Weatherly Monday night for a demonstration on the dangers of electricity.

Doug Haupt, a damage prevention specialist with PPL Electric Utilities, said the Live Line Electrical Safety Exhibit launched last year to educate the public and emergency personnel about the dangers associated with electricity The exhibit replicates the conditions of a 7,200-volt electrical distribution grid.

"We want to keep employees safe, keep customers safe and keep the system safe," he said.

Aquashicola Fire Chief Bill George said, "You have to respect electricity. A lot of people just don't realize what can happen. Most times, you don't get a second chance."

George said he saw a similar presentation in New York and thought it was informative. When he learned that PPL had developed a program, he wanted to bring it to the fire departments in this area.

Haupt does the Live Line program with Chris Schillinger, a damage prevention specialist, and Bill Kropa, a troubleman foreman. Schillinger is the one who actually developed the program, and the exhibit was built in-house.

Last year, they did 40 demonstrations within their 29-county coverage area. This year, they intend to do 50 demonstrations between April and October and are almost completely booked, but are willing to schedule dates for 2018. he said.

At the Aquashicola Fire Department, the program started in the fire hall with a review of electrical terms and facts to drive home the dangers of live wires. For instance, just 50 milliamperes can stop the heart.

To help the group visualize that, he said night lights and Christmas lights are 7.5 watts and drain 62.5 milliamperes of current flow.

In addition to stopping the heart, 50 milliamperes can cause the loss of muscle control, which means the person can't make his or her hand let go.

Haupt also explained that downed wires lying on a vehicle crashed into a utility pole, for instance, can cause a ground gradient of electricity radiating out like ripples in water. Don't approach the vehicle, he said.

"Every step you take, you're getting within a different ground gradient," he said.

"Wait until we arrive at the scene and tell you the wire is out and grounded," Schillinger said.

Just because a wire isn't sparking or smoking doesn't mean that it isn't live, Schillinger said. Don't try to guess that the line could be for cable, because it could be accidentally in contact with an electric line. Assume that "every wire you see is electric and every one is energized," he said.

The men advised the firefighters to set up a 35-foot perimeter around a crash scene with downed wires.

At the electrical demonstration, the men showed the group what it sounds like, smells like and looks like when electricity comes in contact with an animal, a ladder, shovel, a firefighter's boot, vehicle and a simulated hand.

No real animals were used in the demonstration, just a fake crow. But when it tripped the electric line, there was a loud pop and a smell in the air of something burned. Schillinger said that in reality, "You'd be lucky to find any feathers." In the demonstration, the fake crow was still complete.

To simulate a hand touching a wire, the men used a hot dog, which caused a spark and small fire at the point where it and the electric wire met.

"Most likely, you'd never see the light show," he said.

That same electric arc and fire occurred as they demonstrated a shovel digging into the ground and hitting an energized wire and a firefighter's boot stepping on a live wire, which smelled like burning rubber. Schillinger warned them not to run out and check on a person electrocuted this way, because a ground gradient could exist.

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