Kansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc.’s “Deadliest Safety Catch” campaign kicked off in August as a tie-in to cooperative principle No. 5: education, training, and information. The campaign, which uses actual photos taken of unsafe practices “caught” by KEC’s Loss Control, Safety and Compliance team, aims to spread awareness on what to do and not do regarding electrical safety hazards. September’s Deadliest Safety Catch focuses on electrical meter tampering and uses a photo taken of an actual attempted do-it-yourself fix of an electric meter. Thankfully, no one was injured or killed.
Tampering with electrical meters is not only dangerous but it is also illegal in Kansas.
Those who tamper with electrical meters could face a number of charges including theft, burglary and trespassing. Charges and sentences vary depending based on the severity of the crime and the extent of the damage. Kansas Statute 21-5814 covering crimes and punishments goes further into detail about the legal repercussions. (You won’t need to read the fine print if you don’t plan to tamper with the equipment.)
Stealing or manipulating electrical power can cause fire, electrical shocks, and potential injury or death for the perpetrator and others. It is never safe to tamper with a meter at any time for any reason. If you know of or are suspicious of anyone interfering with any electrical meters, please call your local authorities and electric co-op for assistance.
Manipulating electrical meters puts first responders and linemen at risk when electrical lines must be de-energized. For instance, when firemen need to gain access to a particular building or area, they need to shut off the power. If lines are energized from illegal tampering, it could endanger their lives.
Larry Detwiler, director of KEC’s Loss, Control, Safety and Compliance, said that each electric co-op handles meter tampering differently depending on the situation. Co-ops review suspected tamperings on a case-by-case basis to determine whether to pursue it legally or to contact local law enforcement to inspect the situation before going out to the site.
Detwiler also noted that when someone damages electric co-op property, they damage consumer-member property as well.
“You’re not only hurting yourself but also your fellow co-op consumer-members by doing things that can either be potentially a litigation or liability issue,” Detwiler said. “They’re actually hurting themselves by tampering with the meter.”
Whether trying to reconnect service after habitual nonpayment of bills or pulling the meter to do electrical work on the property — just don’t do it. It is illegal and puts everyone’s lives in danger.
“Depending on the installation, pulling the meter does not necessarily disconnect the power,” Detwiler said.
Detwiler reminds everyone to stay away from electrical equipment and call their local electric co-op if they have an issue or need assistance. Co-ops respond to consumer-members’ needs quickly — and most importantly — safely.