By Kim Watson
For the Star-Gazette
Beardstown Fire Department hosted a natural gas and electrical safety workshop last week, funded by Ameren. The Beardstown Fire Department was filled with approximately 80 participants which included staff from fire, police, ambulance and first responders from Beardstown and surrounding areas.
The first part of the workshop was spent on how natural gas emergencies should be handled and who should handle them. Natural gas can emit an odor when there is either an indoor or outdoor leak. It can be deadly and the potential impact radius could be up to 500 feet, depending on the size of the pipe, the amount of pressure and the type of product.
The first line of defense for citizens who suspect a threat of a gas leak is evacuation, and immediately call for assistance. Beardstown Fire Department has meters to check for leaks of both natural gas and carbon dioxide. Never take a chance. Evacuate and call for help.
Ameren introduced Kyle Finley, a former employee of Illinois Power, who travels around Illinois and surrounding states presenting “Live Line Demonstrations.” He spoke too the group about electrical safety.
He explained that even though we are around electricity every day, we don’t usually understand what we cannot hear, smell or see, and that is why so many people are electrocuted each year. He told the group by sharing his knowledge and experience he hopes to keep one more person out of harms way.
His demonstration included three power poles set up with live electricity.
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When he presents his demonstration, he always uses safety equipment. His message is not just for those people on the job but also offers tips about general safety around electricity at home and work. He used several participants from the audience for his various demonstrations.
He addressed the employees of Beardstown and stated that when he drove into town he noticed the type of wire that Beardstown has and expressed that it can be very dangerous. Finley welcomed questions and interacted with the audience throughout the demonstration.
Finley spoke about the obvious danger of fallen power lines and bare wires, but also talked about day-to-day exposures that could be deadly.
One danger that stood out was about the simple Mylar balloon.
He explained that Mylar is nothing more than aluminum foil and is an excellent conductor of electricity. If the balloon touches an exposed line it lights up like a Christmas tree, Finley stated.
He asked how many times have balloons been let go at a wedding or even by accident? He said what goes up must come down and if the balloon gets tangled in electrical equipment, then the power company is called out to clear the lines. That simple balloon can affect day-to-day electrical service and cause safety issues for those involved with the clean up.
He encouraged those with swimming pools to be careful not to get the pole used for cleaning the pool tangled or even hit an overhead wire, because the insulation could be worn off by weather or even animals. Finley said, “Have overhead power lines near a pool buried, before they bury someone.”
“Heads up” was one of Finley’s top rules for safety. He stated one of the first lines of defense is to know what is above you when you are moving equipment or even responding to an emergency. Take a few minutes to observe your surroundings. It could save your life or the life of someone else. Police, fire and first responders should take a few minutes to observe what is above them which could save a life...which could be their own.
Finley shared that downed power lines are one of the most obvious reasons for people being electrocuted. If you are in your car and there are downed power lines across the vehicle, your best line of defense is to stay in the car. The only reason to ever get out before help arrives is if the car is on fire. Finley explained that as long as you are in the car you are safe. Once you step out of the car you become the ground that the current is looking for. Don’t become the ground, stay in the car and be safe and sound.
The police, fire, ambulance and first responders have been trained to keep us safe. The participants walked away with valuable information from this demonstration that will help keep themselves and those they serve alive.
If or when you have questions regarding gas or electrical issues, call those who are trained to handle the problem. Listen to their advice and don’t put yourself or your family in harm’s way. A simple phone call to the right people can be a life saver. Make the call.