CHEC is committed to the safety of our employees, members and visitors. Below is some important safety information to help keep you and your family safe.
Power Line Safety
Accidentally contacting a power line can be dangerous and in some cases, even deadly. Your Touchstone Energy cooperative wants to help our members stay safe around power lines.
Keep a safe distance
Whether you are playing outdoors with your children or working on landscaping projects, keep a safe distance from power lines and other equipment your co-op uses to get electricity to your home.
Always remember to:
- Stay away from power lines, meters, transformers and electrical boxes.
- Don’t climb trees near power lines.
- Never fly kites, remote control airplanes or balloons near power lines.
- If you get something stuck in a power line, call your Touchstone Energy co-op to get it.
- Keep a safe distance from overhead power lines when working with ladders or installing objects such as antennas.
- Never touch or go near a downed power line.
- Don’t touch anything that may be touching a downed wire, such as a car.
- Keep children and pets away.
Hatteras Island often provides ideal conditions for wind and water sports, including kiteboarding and recreational kite flying. Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative reminds you to check the area above and around you before launching your kite. Make sure there are no electric power lines in the area!
Kiting on Hatteras Island can be pleasurable provided that those participating are responsible kiters. As with all hobbies and fun activities, there are safety issues that must be initially addressed. CHEC has had several incidents of kiteboarding equipment and personal hand held kites becoming entangled in our power lines. This can result in loss of electric power, serious personal injury and possibly loss of life. Always anticipate wind speed and directional change, as it can suddenly shift or become stronger. If you find yourself being pulled by your kite to closely to a power line, you must react immediately and release yourself completely from your kite.
Kite Safety Tips:
- Before gearing up and letting your kite soar, remember to "Look up and live" - check the immediate area around and above you to make sure there are no electric power lines in the immediate vicinity.
- Never kite alone.
- Remember, the wind on Hatteras Island can become strong very quickly, taking the kite and flyer in directions not intended.
- Exercise safe and courteous behavior when using kites.
Power Line Hazards and Cars
If a power line falls on a car, you should stay inside the vehicle. This is the safest place to stay. Warn people not to touch the car or the line. Call or ask someone to call the local cooperative and emergency services.
The only circumstance in which you should consider leaving a car that is in contact with a downed power line is if the vehicle catches on fire. Open the door. Do not step out of the car. You may receive a shock. Instead, jump free of the car so that your body clears the vehicle before touching the ground. Once you clear the car, shuffle at least 50 feet away, with both feet on the ground.
As in all power line related emergencies, call for help immediately by dialing 911 or call your electric utility company's Service Center/Dispatch Office.
Do not try to help someone else from the car while you are standing on the ground.
Electrical Safety and Generators
Preventing Electrocutions Associated with Portable Generators Plugged Into Household Circuits
When power lines are down, residents can restore energy to their homes or other structures by using another power source such as a portable generator. If water has been present anywhere near electrical circuits and electrical equipment, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel. Do not turn the power back on until electrical equipment has been inspected by a qualified electrician.
If it is necessary to use a portable generator, manufacturer recommendations and specifications must be strictly followed. If there are any questions regarding the operation or installation of the portable generator, a qualified electrician should be immediately contacted to assist in installation and start-up activities. The generator should always be positioned outside the structure.
When using gasoline- and diesel-powered portable generators to supply power to a building, switch the main breaker or fuse on the service panel to the "off" position prior to starting the generator. This will prevent power lines from being inadvertently energized by backfeed electrical energy from the generators, and help protect utility line workers or other repair workers or people in neighboring buildings from possible electrocution. If the generator is plugged into a household circuit without turning the main breaker to the “off” position or removing the main fuse, the electrical current could reverse, go back through the circuit to the outside power grid, and energize power lines or electrical systems in other buildings to at or near their original voltage without the knowledge of utility or other workers.
Effects of Backfeed
The problem of backfeed in electrical energy is a potential risk for electrical energy workers. Electrocutions are the fifth leading cause of all reported occupational deaths. Following the safety guidelines below can reduce this risk.
Other Generator Hazards
Generator use is also a major cause of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Generators should only be used in well ventilated areas.
Pools, Shocks and Stray Voltage
Summer heat brings swimming pool use, increased energy use and the drying of the soil. This combination, in conjunction with the non-conductive nature of modern swimming pools, can lead to shock problems around the pool.
This situation can be very complex and difficult to resolve, particularly with regard to existing pools.
It helps to understand that an electric potential (voltage) may exist between the "grounded" conductors of an electric system and local "earth" ground. This potential is most frequently referred to as "stray voltage," but is also called tingle voltage and neutral-to-earth voltage (NEV). It is generally thought that grounded conductors are at the same potential as "earth" ground, but due to many complex issues, this is rarely the case. Adding grounding electrodes seldom has a beneficial effect on this voltage: there are numerous grounding electrodes already on the electric system at every service drop (meter), transformer and most electric poles.
Neutral-to-earth voltage is brought into the pool vicinity by the equipment grounding conductor that is connected to the pool circulation pump and pool equipotential bonding grid required by the 2008 National Electrical Code(NEC), Article 680-26(B). Non-conductive materials used in the construction of modern pools generally prevent the pool water from coming into electrical contact with the grounded conductors of the electric system through such obvious means as metallic plumbing or steel reinforced concrete sides.
Consequently, pool water becomes bonded to the local "earth" potential by water seepage through the liner. Paradoxically, the concrete deck, metal coping, stanchions, and other metallic fittings are brought to the potential of the electric grounding system via the connection of the equipotential bonding grid to an equipment grounding conductor either directly or indirectly.
The most adequate solution to "stray voltage" is to ensure that all conductive items included in or on the pool structure are bonded together in a common equipotential bonding grid. The pool water must also be effectively bonded to the equipotential bonding grid to eliminate a voltage differential between it and the bonded surroundings. The 2008 edition of the NEC now requires an intentional bond (electrode) in contact with the pool water (Art. 680.26(C)). The equipotential bonding grid needs to include the decking or soil in some manner for several feet away from the edge of the pool coping.
Some common problems encountered involve the degradation or incompleteness of the equipotential bonding grid around the pool. Most noteworthy of these is the lack of electrical bonding to each individual coping section around the pool deck edge. Robust, redundant mechanical connections or exothermic welding are necessary.
The pool environment is fairly corrosive to metals, particularly aluminum and steel, due to moisture, galvanic action, chloride salts and the alkalinity of concrete. Additionally, concrete settlement creates breaks in the equipotential bonding grid allowing differing potentials to develop around the pool. The importance of an adequately designed, electrically and mechanically sound equipotential bonding grid cannot be overemphasized in NEV mitigation.
The NEC lists the "minimum" requirements needed for the practical safeguarding of persons and property. It is not intended as a design specification. Experience has shown the "minimum" requirements do not adequately resolve NEV. Redundancy and adequacy of bonding points is important. Equipotential bonding is not an area to cut costs. Once the pool is built, it is difficult and expensive to retrofit, replace, or repair shortcomings. Other perceived remedies such as neutral isolators mask the fact that a safety issue exists: namely, inadequate bonding between contact points allowing electric potential differences to manifest, regardless of the source.