Photo by Kim Rabe

Steve Hancock, of Ameren Illinois, a presenter of Live Line Demo, Inc. electrical safety programs, shows what happens when a bird sitting on a power line touches something else on the line – instant death for the bird. He presented a program June 5 to many first responders from Iroquois County.

First responders from throughout Iroquois County were invited to a Live Line Demo, sponsored by Corn Belt Energy, last week at the Crescent-Iroquois Fire Protection District fire house. First responders include police, firemen, and ambulance and emergency medical services personnel. More than 50 first responders were in attendance and some of the areas represented were Martinton, Milford, Crescent-Iroquois, Ashkum, Onarga, Chebanse, Watseka and Stockland.

Karly Combest, community relations coordinator for District IV of Ameren Illinois, welcomed those present and introduced Steve Hancock, who presented the program.

Live Line Demos are used as a means to “prevent accidents and save lives,” according to Hancock, of Ameren Illinois. In addition to using a demonstration set-up, he described the tools of the trade and equipment used to keep safe. The number one tool for linemen is the “hot stick” which enables workers to reach and unclasp electrical equipment on power lines. He noted the original hot stick was 6-feet long and made of wood.

Hancock’s often-used words of advice were: “Electricity – you can’t see it, you can’t smell it … and you can’t outrun it.” He said “amperage, volt and current is the stuff that kills us,” noting it takes only 5/1000s of an amp to stop the human heart – 5 milliamps. He also said “electricity takes the quickest and easiest path (of least resistance to the ground).” It was stated most fatalities happen at 120-volts or less.

He brought up GFI outlets (also known as GFCIs) which are ground fault (circuit) interrupters. These outlets help protect people in their homes from receiving electrical shocks if their devices, such as a hair dryer, are faulty. He encouraged those present to make sure the GFI outlets are tested on a monthly basis, just like smoke detectors, because if they aren’t working they aren’t going to protect you.

Using his demonstration center, Hancock showed what happens when a bird sitting on a power line reaches over and touches another component with its bill – the bird burst into flames – because the current was redirected. He also showed what happens when a squirrel happens to touch two points – instant death as the current going through the animal goes so fast it never knows what got it.

As a reminder to the general public, any time there is something needing to be done with electricity, call in the professionals and when getting ready to do landscaping, construction or such, be sure to call JULIE so all utility lines can be properly located and marked.