Police officers, firefighters get electrical safety training

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 9, 2011

NATCHEZ — Since you can never be sure, do not ever touch a down wire, ever.

That was the message of Entergy lineman Jessie McDowell at a demonstration at the Entergy building Tuesday about what happens when objects come in contact with live wires.

Those curious about how serious McDowell’s warning was got a visual picture that would sink in if verbal instructions did not.

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The “Arcs and Sparks” demonstration was shown to those who are most likely to come in contact with precarious electrical wire situations — first responders.

City employees in attendance included policemen, firemen, public works employees and road department employees.

Grown men and women grew wide-eyed when an 8,000-volt blew a hole out of a hot dog, which was used to demonstrate what would happen to a finger.

The 8,000 volts were only 1-one-hundredth of what Entergy employees deal with in the field, McDowell said.

McDowell said electricity usually violates the five senses because it is silent and invisible.

“But when you can see it and hear it, it’s generally not good,” McDowell said.

The sight, sound and smell of the hotdog cooking demonstrated his point.

Some may have been surprised to see a tree branch conducting enough heat by touching a live wire to catch on fire.

McDowell said although wood is not as good a conductor as metal, it is still a conductor.

When a tree branch falls on a power line, do not touch the tree it came from, he said.

He explained that since air is the best insulator known to man, live wires do not harm birds.

Since electricity is always trying to find the closest way to the earth, humans, who are generally on the ground, are a prime target, he said.

McDowell reminded the audience to be careful when using generators during long-term power outages.

He said people should plug the generator into an extension cord and then into a refrigerator, for example, but they should never plug a generator directly into an outlet on the wall.

Hooking generators up to a house in that manner can send electricity to power lines through a transformer that increases the voltage instead of reduces it, he said.

That is a good way to permanently harm the Entergy employees that help get the electricity going again, he said.

He said even first responders with lots of experience should contact Entergy officials when a question arises about whether a wire is live.

“Electricity is our biggest friend, but it’s also our biggest enemy,” he said.