It’s easy to become complacent around electricity and its potential dangers as we go about our everyday
activities. When moving a ladder from the shed, do you look up for power lines? Do your children climb trees that may be in reach of power lines? These are just some of the reasons why Kansas electric cooperatives invest staff time and resources in safety demonstration trailers and tabletop displays. Educating co-op consumer-members about the dangers of electricity and how to avoid injury or even death, addresses Cooperative Principle No. 5 – Education and Training.
Lyle Mathis, vice president of engineering and operations at Tri-County Electric Cooperative (TCEC), that serves the extreme southwest part of Kansas, was demonstrating electrical safety at a fire department in Guymon, Oklahoma, when a fireman approached him with a testament to the importance of public safety training. The fireman told Mathis he previously saw the co-op’s safety demonstration. He went on to explain how he and his wife had gotten into a vehicle accident while pulling a camper. The fireman recalled how power lines had come down onto their truck and told Mathis, “If I had not seen [the demonstration], I would’ve died.”
These safety demonstrations are presented at a variety of locations like rural fire and police stations, townships, schools, ag/farm shows, or at larger gatherings by request. The presentations are typically around an hour long, and free, and each demonstration is tailored to the specific audience.
In presentations aimed at kids, props and different layouts are used to be more understandable. TCEC uses their tabletop display, “Safe City,” along with “Lightning Liz” and “Neon Leon,” glass dolls that light up a neon orange color when in contact with electricity.
“It’s [Safe City] got a miniature power line and we layout different scenarios where they make contact,” Mathis said. “We got these little doll things that are actually lightbulbs, but they’re shaped like little people and when they make contact with a kite string, it actually lights up the little doll.”
The co-ops strive to educate audiences whose everyday work requires electrical safety awareness, such as the agricultural community that works long hours during harvest maneuvering heavy machinery around potential hazards.
“Over the years, we have taken our demo to the farm shows and places like that,” Paul Norris, director of operations at Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative, of Girard, said. “Our biggest goal is to try to reach the ag community.”
The unsafe scenarios demonstrated will vary depending on the co-op presenting and the group they present to.
Travis Griffin, member services manager at Flint Hills Electric Cooperative, Council Grove, said their co-op staff explains to audiences what to do when there are downed power lines, such as in a car wreck, or when electricity involves water and docks and understanding that although you cannot see electricity, you must be aware of its harmful effects.
Griffin said one of the biggest challenges when it comes to the safety demos is simply getting the word out to organizations that they are available.
“Once they see it, we usually come back every year, and it doesn’t have to be a [co-op] member for us to do the demonstrations,” Griffin said. “We are here to serve our community.” KCL