Jul. 3—BY SHELLEY TERRY
ASHTABULA — With the Fourth of July on Sunday, FirstEnergy reminds the public to be cautious of potential electrical hazards associated with popular outdoor activities.
Celebrating responsibly will help keep customers safe and the electricity flowing reliably this season.
“As we prepare for parades, barbeques and outdoor fun, we encourage everyone to keep electrical safety top of mind to ensure a safe holiday and summer season,” said Laura Redenshek, director of safety for FirstEnergy Utilities. “Enjoying the season responsibly can also help prevent unnecessary disruptions to your electric service during a time when many people rely on their air conditioning to stay cool and comfortable.”
Foil balloons and fireworks are two of the most common and festive ways to celebrate Independence Day. However, they can create safety issues and cause major damage to the electric system when they are used near power lines and electrical equipment.
While foil balloons have increased in popularity as holiday and party decorations, they continue to cause many power outages because their metallic coating conducts electricity when they drift into power lines or electrical equipment. Over the past three months, foil balloons were to blame for nearly 50 power outages across FirstEnergy’s six-state service area — a 40 percent increase in balloon-related outages when compared to this time last year.
Customers should securely tie helium-filled foil balloons to a weight that is heavy enough to prevent them from floating away, and then puncture and deflate them once they are no longer in use because they can stay inflated for several weeks. Never release them into the sky.
FirstEnergy also encourages customers to leave the large, colorful fireworks displays to the professionals. Extra caution should be used when handling fireworks, firecrackers and rockets at home, and they should only be lit in open areas where no power lines are in sight. Should a firework accidentally come in contact with a power line or equipment, leave it alone and immediately call 911 to report the problem.
To help ensure holidays and celebrations are enjoyed responsibly, customers should keep the following outdoor safety tips in mind:
—Never fly kites, motorized airplanes or drones near power lines. While kites almost always use cotton string, wet cotton string can conduct electricity almost as well as metal string.
—Keep electrical devices and cords at least 10-feet away from water sources such as pools and spas. When possible, use battery-operated electrical devices outside.
—All outdoor receptacles should be covered to keep them dry. This is especially important around pools, spas and other summer water activities.
—When hauling a boat, make sure it clears overhead power lines and stay away from power lines when sailing.
—Never climb a tree that is growing near or into overhead lines or near a utility pole. Also, never climb on utility poles or other infrastructure, in particular transmission towers or substation fences. These activities are extremely hazardous and can result in very severe injuries.
—Never attempt to retrieve any type of object caught in a power line. Leave it alone and immediately call FirstEnergy at 888-544-4877 to report the problem.
—Stay far away from a downed or low-hanging power line. Always assume downed lines are energized and dangerous. Report them by calling 911.
FirstEnergy serves customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland and New York. The company’s transmission subsidiaries operate about 24,000 miles of transmission lines that connect the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions. Visit FirstEnergy online at www.firstenergycorp.com.