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Safety

 

At Black Hills Electric Cooperative, the safety of our members is of the utmost importance.

 


 

Safety Tips

 

If Your Power Goes Off

Confirm your outage by first checking lights and appliances in other rooms. If you still have power in some areas, most likely, a fuse has blown or a circuit breaker has tripped. This could be a warning of overloaded wiring or a defective appliance. If all lights are off, check to see if your neighbors lights are also off. This will help us determine how widespread the outage is.

Call Black Hills Electric at 605-673-4461 or 800-742-0085. Our phones are answered by cooperative personnel 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

Protect your appliances by turning off all large appliances that turn on automatically. Make sure to shut off your water heater, space heaters, air conditioner, water pump, refrigerator and freezer. This will help prevent overloading your electrical circuits when power is restored. Disconnect all sensitive appliances such as VCRs, computers, TVs, microwave ovens, etc., to avoid damage from lightning or a power surge. Turn off any appliances you were operating before the power outage occurred.

If the outage appears to be for an extended period of time, open the freezer and refrigerator as little as possible. Food will stay fresh longer if the doors are not opened. A full freezer will keep food frozen for 24 to 48 hours.

If you use a standby generator, be sure it has been installed and wired properly with a double-throw switch. This will prevent electricity from flowing back into the power line and possibly injuring someone.

Plan Ahead and Be Prepared

Always keep an alternate source of light on hand, such as a flashlight with extra batteries, candles with matches, or a camping lamp with appropriate fuel.

Keep emergency food and related items on hand, such as non-perishable foods that require no cooking, canned fruit, powdered milk, peanut butter and crackers. Keep a manual can opener near your emergency food stock along with paper plates and plastic utensils.

An alternate source of heat, such as a wood stove or camping stove, should be available in case of an outage during the cold months. Make sure the heat source you are using is properly vented. Never use a heat source that was not intended to be used indoors. Keep extra clothes, blankets or sleeping bags readily available.

When the Power Comes Back On

When the power first comes back on, turn on only the most essential appliances and wait 10-15 minutes before reconnecting the others.

Check food supplies for signs of spoilage. Don't take a chance on food you are not sure about. It is better to throw it away and be safe than to keep it and be sorry.

Obey the Proximity Law

South Dakota state law states that nothing may be placed within 10 feet in any direction of a power line. That is the distance you should observe when working outdoors with equipment or machinery, such as a crane, forklift, backhoe, dump truck, hay stacker, TV antenna, drilling rig, irrigation pipes, or anything else that could get into a power line. Actual law is below:

South Dakota Codified Law 49-32-11 —

Activities bringing persons or equipment in proximity to high voltage lines prohibited. Violation as misdemeanor.

No person may, individually or through an agent or employee, and no person as an agent or employee of another person, may perform or permit another to perform any function or activity if it is probable that during the performance of such activity any person or any tool, equipment, machinery, or material engaged in performing work connected with such activity, will move to, or be placed in, a position within ten feet of any high voltage overhead electrical line or conductor. A violation of this section is a Class 2 misdemeanor.

Source: SL 1973, ch 288, § 2; SL 1983, ch 15, § 130; SL 2002, ch 215, § 1.

Downed Power Lines

We can't avoid downed power lines, but you should! No matter how well your cooperative is prepared, we cannot avoid downed power lines. Hours of freezing rain or strong winds can snap a power pole without warning, leaving an energized line hanging dangerously low or lying on the ground. Snowbound trees can fall, taking several lines down with them. A vehicle could spin out of control into a pole and send a wire to the ground. If you spot a downed power line, stay away from it. Call 673-4461 or 800-742-0085 immediately to report the downed line. Keep others away until cooperative personnel arrive.

Electrical Safety in Your Home

Water and electricity do not mix. Never use your hair dryer, power tools, radio, toaster or any appliance you may have in your kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, garage, workshop or outdoors near water. Do not use appliances when you are in the bathtub or shower. Look around you, make sure it is safe to go near water.

Child-Proof Your Home

To protect your children, child-proof your home against electric hazards. Outlets should be protected by plastic caps. Make sure electrical cords are not frayed or cracked and keep them out of reach of children. When bathing your child, make sure no electrical appliances are near the tub or unplugged.

Beware of Substations

Never go inside the fence at a substation. A substation is a place where huge amounts of electricity are reduced to a lower voltage and sent along distribution lines. The substation is fenced to prevent someone from getting electrocuted. Teach your children to heed the Danger -- High Voltage warning signs and to stay clear. If a toy or animal gets into the substation, contact the cooperative. We will retrieve it for you.

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Safety Around Electric Wires

 

There are so many types of wires in our lives that we tend to take them all for granted. Wires bring electricity, television and telephone into our homes. Most of the time, these wires are strung up on poles where they are safely out of the way. Sometimes, for varied reasons, these wires end up on the ground. There is one basic rule to remember if you come across a downed wire: STAY AWAY AND DO NOT TOUCH!

All wires and cables on a pole, including telephone and cable TV wires, could become energized under the right conditions. Usually when an energized power line hits the ground it blows a fuse or trips a breaker. However, under some conditions, there might not be enough current flow in the ground to blow the fuse or trip the breaker and the power line will stay energized while lying on the ground. STAY AWAY AND DO NOT TOUCH!

A popular misconception is that power lines are insulated. They are not. Even lines with what appears to be a black rubber covering are never to be considered insulated for personal protection. These coverings are to protect the wore from damage, not to protect you. The only real insulation from power lines is distance. That is why they are way up on poles.

If you see any wires on the ground, contact your cooperative as soon as possible at 605-673-4461 or 800-742-0085. Warn others and keep them away. It is important to teach children this simple rule: STAY AWAY AND DO NOT TOUCH!

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GFCIs for Safety

 

If an inexpensive electrical device called a ground fault circuit interrupter was installed in every U.S. household, 70 percent of the 240 electrocutions that occur at home each year could be prevented.

An unintentional electrical path between a source of current and a grounded source is referred to as a "ground fault." Ground faults occur when current leaks somewhere between its source and its destination. If a person comes in contact with this leaking current and provides a path to ground for the stray current, serious injury or electrocution may result. A ground fault is often the result of damaged cords or appliances, poorly insulated wires, or mishandling, such as dropping an appliance in water.

GFCIs are products designed to prevent serious injury or death from electrical shock by detecting the ground faults at very low levels and interrupting power. There are three types of GFCIs to choose from that would be best suited in the home: wall receptacle, circuit breaker and portable plug-in.

A wall receptacle GFCI is used in place of standard receptacles found throughout the house. It fits into a standard outlet box and protects against ground faults when any electrical appliance/portable plugged in.

Circuit breaker GFCIs can be installed in any home that has a circuit breaker panel box to give protection to selected circuits. It will shut off electricity in the event of a ground fault, and will be tripped if a short circuit or overload occurs.

There are two types of portable GFCIs. One contains the GFCI circuitry in a self-contained enclosure that plugs into the receptacle with electrical products then being plugged directly into the GFCI. The other kind of portable GFCI is an extension cord with the GFCI built into it.

GFCIs are a small investment and a big lifesaver. Recommended areas to protect are kitchens, bathrooms, garages, crawl spaces, unfinished basements and outdoor receptacles. If you home is not already protected, consider having a GFCI installed.

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 Safe Tree Trimming

If you plan to clear your yard or land of trees for any reason, there are some things you need to be aware of—power lines.

Cutting down trees is serious business. Contrary to popular belief, trees can be a great conductor of electricity.

Look overhead and to all side surrounding the cutting site. Make sure the tree or limbs won't come in contact with any power lines when it falls.

Use extreme caution when cutting in windy conditions.

If a tree or limb does fall across a line, do not try to remove it, even if you think the line is not energized.

Call Black Hills Electric Cooperative immediately at 605-673-4461 or 800-742-0085. Our trained personnel will safely remove the tree. If you have trees near power lines that need to be removed, contact your cooperative, we may remove the tree for you at little or no cost to you.

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Generator Facts

 

  • Electricity, once a luxury, is now essential. To beat weather-related electrical outages, many households and businesses are investigating back-up power generators for use in an emergency.

  • Generators are widely available in a range of sizes and configurations. Some come equipped with gasoline, diesel or propane engines. Others operate from the power takeoff attachment found on many tractors. These devices all have one thing in common—they produce electricity at levels high enough to cause injury, death and property damage. That does not mean they should not be used. But, like any other electrical equipment, they must be correctly sized and properly installed. Generators are rated by the wattage they produce—usually expressed in kilowatts—and are sized according to the loads they need to serve.

  • To determine the size of the generator needed, total the rated watts of the appliances and fixtures you will want to operate during an outage. Some loads are easy to determine—a 100-watt light bulb, for example, uses 100 watts. Ten 100-watt bulbs would require 1,000 watts or one kilowatt. The power requirements for appliances are often provided in the operating manual.

  • While the power needs of individual appliances vary, those that produce heat or use large motors tend to require higher wattage. Power need for motors, such as those powering well pumps, furnace fans and refrigerators and freezers are more difficult to determine. Electric motors require more current when starting than they do in continuous operation. Without sufficient starting power, motors may overheat, burn out or trip the generator's circuit breaker.

  • In most instances, it will not be economical or practical to try to supply the entire usual electrical needs of a home or business from a standby generator. Instead, only selected, essential loads should be served from the generator to serve the minimum possible heating, refrigeration, water supply and lighting loads. More important than sizing is correct installation. Auxiliary power sources must be completely isolated from the cooperative's lines attached to your meter to avoid backfeeding into your cooperative's system.

  • During an outage, line crews trying to restore power—or anyone who contacts a downed line—could be seriously injured or killed by backfeed from an improperly installed generator. A special switch is used to transfer a building's wiring from normal to a standby power source. The device—called a double-throw switch—is designed to prevent a generator's output from backfeeding through the cooperative's transformers and lines. The switch makes it impossible to connect the main power source to the generator. The use of a double-throw switch is required by the National Electric Code when connecting an auxiliary power source to an existing system.

  • If you are considering installing an emergency back-up generator, contact a generator equipment dealer and a licensed electrician. They can help you select a system that will safely provide temporary power when needed without creating additional problems or hazards.

  • Every year, people are killed by carbon monoxide poisoning caused by operating generators within their homes or near a window or door. Please be safe, always operate generators outside with adequate ventilation.

A double-throw switch must be installed to ensure that electricity from your generator does not backfeed onto your cooperative's power lines where it can cause injury or death to cooperative line personnel repairing lines or any person who happens to be in contact with a power line when you start your generator.

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Digging Safely

 

People are always poking all kinds of holes in the ground. New trees, shrubs, fence posts, mailboxes, foundations or basements.

If your outdoor projects call for some digging, even as shallow as one foot deep, you need to know what is under the ground first. It could be only a few earthworms or it could be a buried utility line energized with 220 volts or more of electricity.

Before you dig up that yard, think safety first? By state law, you must call South Dakota One Call at 811 at least 72 hours prior to digging. If you would rather you can submit a request online at SD One Call.  Black Hills Electric Cooperative and other utilities in the area will be notified of your plans and send crews out to locate and mark any underground wires.

Calling South Dakota One Call at 811 could save your life or prevent an outage.

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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

 

Americans spend approximately 90 percent of their lives indoors, where hazardous air pollutants can exist at higher levels than outdoors

Children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with lung disease are particularly at high risk for adverse health effects caused by indoor air pollution, including carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced as a result of incomplete burning of carbon-containing fuels, such as propane, natural gas, fuel oil and wood.

Breathing low levels of carbon monoxide can cause fatigue and increase chest pain in people with chronic heart disease. Breathing higher levels of carbon monoxide causes flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness and weakness in healthy people.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms include sleepiness, nausea, vomiting, confusion and disorientation. At very high levels, it causes loss of consciousness and death. Nearly 300 people a year die from carbon monoxide poisioning.

Any fuel-burning appliance that is not adequately vented and maintained can be a potential source of carbon monoxide poisoning, including furnaces, ranges, ovens, water heaters, clothes dryers, fireplaces, space heaters, coal and wood burning stoves, charcoal grills, automobile exhaust, camp stoves and gas-powered small engines. Cigarette smoke also contains carbon monoxide in high levels along with other toxic gases.

To Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:

  • Make sure fossil fuel-burning appliances are installed and working according to manufacturer's instructions.

  • Have only a qualified technician install or convert fuel-burning equipment.

  • Have your exhaust pipe or chimney and flue inspected and cleaned by a qualified technician every year.

  • Do not use ovens or ranges to heat your home.

  • Do not burn charcoal inside a home, cabin, recreational vehicle, camper or tent.

  • Do not operate gasoline or diesel engines in confined areas such as garages or basements.

  • Make sure your furnace has adequate intake of outside air.

  • Choose vented appliances.

  • Use kerosene space heaters and unvented gas heaters only in well-ventilated rooms.

  • Install a carbon monoxide detector with audible alarm in your home and garage.

  • Of course, the best solution to eliminate the chance of carbon monoxide poisoning is to use only electric appliances and heaters.

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