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Johnnygeo's Geocaching Safety Blog
In this blog I discuss geocaching safety topics. I thoroughly communicate the dangers of caching around electrical equipment.
I appreciate that you stopped by I hope you take away something new...
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Sunday, April 07, 2013
Geocaching Electrical Safety and You
What's this Blog all about? It's about the dangers of geocaching in, on and around electrical equipment. Please take two minutes to read this preamble at least one time as a geocacher. You'll walk away with valuable information... I promise.
Geocaching:(LINK) - the fun outdoor game of hiding and seeking containers using a GPSr (Global Positioning System receiver).
(Johnnygeo drawing a 4000 volt arc on a demo board)
Adding the element of electrical equipment to our game increases the risk of injury or death that should not be part of our hobby, or any other hobby.
My intent is not to be "the crazy alarmist guy" but someone who explains fact based on my electrical knowledge. (Though, if the "crazy alarmist guy" thing works for you and it makes you want to read my blog, then that's who I am) :o)
****************(WARNING: I have one graphic photo shown below of an injury caused by contact with high voltage electrical equipment.[hand injury])***********************
Please give me a couple minutes to explain my concerns. This is important info:
First off, please let me quickly introduce myself: "the geocacher" & "the safety guy".
I’m a geocacher. LOVE the hobby.
I've been caching since early 2005 and have been fortunate to cache in beautiful locations across Canada, USA, Mexico, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France and Cuba. I look forward to finding some caches in some other countries in the near future
I've hidden over 60 caches and have over 2400 finds.
I enjoy caching because it takes me to places where a travel guide or tour booklet may never have taken me.
I'm proud to say some of my best friends are also geocachers.
Second, I’m a Occupational Health & Safety Professional that works for a power utility company in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
One of my previous job duties was to respond and investigate power line contacts. When someone from the general public contacts an overhead power line, digs and contacts an underground high voltage power cable or opens an energized piece of electrical equipment without authority and gets injured/killed I would be on scene to conduct a full investigation. An electrical contact fatality is one of the most difficult type of investigations to conduct. I’ve seen the first hand results of what electricity can do to the human body and it’s not pretty.
Now to the "meat and potatoes" of this Blog:
Have you ever geocached in, on or around green power boxes(padmount transformers), lamp post caches (LPC's), electrical transmission tower legs and sometimes even FAKE electrical boxes/equipment? Again, all added risk that shouldn't be part of our hobby.
Fake electrical boxes: "What's the danger there?"
Children tend to stick their hands in anywhere and if a child can open a cover to something they’ll do it cause they’re curious. They learn what's safe and what's not safe by watching adults. If we teach kids that it’s okay to open up fake electrical boxes because caches are hidden in them, then I feel that we are placing children in danger.
If that child comes across real electrical equipment that was left open because it was vandalized, would they know to stay away from it? I would say no. Would you stay away from it? Do you know the difference between real and fake electrical equipment? I've seen some very realistic stuff out there.
It’s not okay for children(and adults for that matter) to get-use-to playing around electrical equipment.
Electrical equipment in you neighborhood:
Kids are always playing on those green power boxes located in around neighborhoods, parks and schools. Generally those boxes are safe. (or they wouldn't put them out in the open)
Are they meant for playing on? The answer is no. A question is asked of me all the time, "could this electrical equipment ever be unsafe?" The answer is a definite yes.
Cars hit this type of equipment all the time by drivers (possibly drunk) and the hit equipment is not reported right-away. If damaged the equipment can be sitting there with their metal case energized. As soon as a person touches a piece of equipment they would be electrocuted.
Vandals destroy electrical equipment just for the fun of it and copper thieves steal valuable copper from inside the equipment and leave it in very dangerous condition. This scenario is occurring more and more.
Also, a city can have the best electrical maintenance program in the world and still have the odd piece of equipment fail. This could be a green electrical box in front of your house or a lamp post in a park.
Willie Wagner had been walking home from a museum with a friend May 22 when he squeezed between the light pole and a chain-link fence.
When he touched both, the voltage jumped from the pole through his body to the fence, said John Loud, an investigator hired by the city.
Loud found that insulation on a 480-volt wire had not been properly wrapped with electrical tape. That caused the base of the lamppost to become charged. If the pole had been properly grounded, a fuse would have blown, cutting the power to the pole.
Now let's talk about geocaching on a piece of electrical equipment (i.e. a transmission tower leg) What's the chance of that piece of electrical equipment failing? (Probability) Low? Okay, I could agree with that.
Let's say it failed. What is the consequence when a person touches a failed piece of electrical equipment and that person gives electricity another path to ground?(severity) I know from personal experience that there's usually no second chance of life. I choose to stay away from the equipment, I do not accept that risk into my life. Plain and simple.
There's no need to jeopardize yourself or others to the added risk of electricity.
Another thing to think about… In www.geocaching.com guidelines there’s a line that states, “By submitting a cache listing, you assure us that you have adequate permission to hide your cache in the selected location.”
I don’t know of any power utilities or municipalities that would give permission to hide a game-piece in or on their electrical equipment. Just would not happen.
I write this Blog so everyone’s aware of the dangers and possible dangers.
I'd like to know that if a dangerous situation appears before a geocacher they will know how to properly react to it. Please refer to some of my other posts below(i.e. power line down on the ground, lightning, etc)
In this Blog these are my opinions that are influenced from what I’ve seen doing my job, being in the electrical industry for over 20 years, Health and Safety profession for almost a decade and reading through countless articles and reports that come in from all across North America on people getting injured and killed by electricity.
I will ASK you of two things.
(1) I’m asking you here and in other spots in the blog to think twice about geocaching in or on electrical equipment. There are so many other places we can hide our geocaches.
(2) I’m also asking you to take read through the info below this post and hopefully you’ll carry away something that’s important, not only for geocaching but for other hobbies that you do as well. If you have children, please quiz them to see how well they know the dangers on electricity and guide them how to stay safe.
Again, adding the element of electrical equipment to our game increases the risk of injury or death that should not be part of our hobby, or any other hobby.
If, by writing this blog, one person is prevented from getting injured then I know I've done my job.
Thank you for visiting,
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Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Equipment Fails... Again. (another reason why not to cache on this equipment)
T.O. Hydro Pulls Out Every Worker To Fix Stray Voltage After Five Children Shocked On Streets
Friday January 30, 2009
"It was frightening enough when it involved some dogs in the city.
Now it's affected at least one child, and possibly as many as five, sparking a massive repair job by Toronto Hydro.
It's another case of stray voltage, the same kind of electric shock that resulted in the death of two dogs over the past three months and left several other canines suffering burns to their paws.
CityNews has learned the children were on their way back from a school field trip when they may have suffered exposure or shocks from a handwell at Dundas and Sumach"
One of many reasons why you shouldn't geocache on, in or around electrical equipment... because electrical equipment can fail.
Please read this article...(LINK)
There are so many other places we can hide our game pieces. Please stay away from electrical equipment.
Firefighters attempt to resuscitate a dog that had been electrocuted while walking in the Keele Street and Dundas Street area on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009.
For the second time in just three months, a dog has been electrocuted while out for a walk near High Park.
The dog, a five-year-old labrador-poodle, instantly began convulsing after he stepped on a live wire jutting out from a metal plate at the base of a hydro pole.
The dog's owner called 911 at around 2 a.m. from the scene at Baird Park, close to Keele and Annette Street. Firefighters tried to resuscitate the animal but were unable to save it.
Yet again, another lamp post fails...
Very sad. :(
Please don't geocache in or on any type of electrical equipment. Reading the posts below will explain how this article relates to geocaching safety and will also explain why I feel it's dangerous to cache on electrical equipment.
Monday, January 28, 2008
LPC's... Not just a "Lame" Factor
(a cacher being comical... Haha)
Are Lamp Posts Caches (LPC's) beginning to get a bit lame?
Lame because there's a lot of them?? Lame because they're too easy???
Besides the "lame" factor, scroll down in this blog and find out why it's dangerous to hide caches on lamp posts and other types of electrical equipment.
I thank you for visiting,
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
A VERY DANGEROUS Lamp Post Cache
A fellow cacher just shared this picture with us in a forum as an example of what's out there... (I believe this one is now archived)
The picture above scares me much more than a micro placed under the skirt of a lamp post. (not saying that a micro attached under a LPC's skirt is a smart choice, by any means) but this one is much more serious.
This cache is located INSIDE the lamp post.
This is an example of one of the worst, most dangerous types of geocaches that a person could ever hide.
All a person needs to do to receive a severe electrical shock is reach inside the post and contact energized bare lugs and/or the energized wire.
This is an accident waiting to happen.
Not all people know that a large amount of the time the wires in these posts are live, even in the daylight hours. A photo-cell, located on the top of a lamp post is normally what turns the light on and off.
The caps that protect the energized lugs are not always on all the way leaving energized lugs/wires at the opening exposed. Some lugs are attached to the inside wall of the post without any fixed insulation.
If any of you ever come across a cache like the one above please contact a Geocache.com reviewer ASAP to report this imminent danger and to have it archived.
Also, please contact your local power utility company about the issue so they can tighten the cover on properly.
This is not what geocaching is all about.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Lamp Post Caches (LPC's), Are They Safe?
Lamp Post Caches, are they safe?
At the end of this post I want you to answer the question... Please take a read...
***In this post I'm refering to the type of lamp post cache that a person needs to lift a skirt or cover to grab the cache. This cover usually protects the bolts of a post and most of the time, but not all, there are no wires exposed. I am NOT talking about a lamp post cache where a cacher would hide a micro inside the opening of the lamp post beside energized wiring. A cache placed inside the opening of a lamp post is a very serious safety concern and should NEVER be created. If a cache is found inside a lamp post, please contact a Geocache.com reviewer to have the cache archived and the local utility company to close the lamp post opening properly.***
Now... let's talk about a micro under a skirt of a LPC...
I "Googled" Lamp Post Caches on my computer and came up with a lot of hits on the subject. I read how they're lame because they're so boring after finding 10 of them in a row. I read that they're on private property and that a cacher needs permission before they hide a cache in the lamp post. I read that a lamp post cache caused a bomb threat.
All of these concerns are valid but from a safety perspective I think we're missing the boat. There needs to be more thought on how a lamp posts electrical equipment fails. It's happening way too much to say.. Ahhh, that never happens...
Remember, everytime you lift a lamp post cover to find a cache, you're trusting that the lampost wiring has not failed from old age or has not been vandelized before you got there.
As I've said in the past, a city, town, etc can have the best electrical maintenance program in the world, and still, the power equipment can fail, like anything else.
For a handful of you that may be asking yourself, "I haven't heard of anyone getting killed by geocaching by a lampost", you're right, and I hope that knowbody ever does. BUT people doing other hobbies, walking their dog, playing around lamposts and other types of electrical equipment are getting killed.
Here's some proof on what's going on "out there". (please click on the link for the full story)
(1)... The electrified spots were discovered during emergency inspections prompted by Ms. Lane's death...Manhattan had 53 electrified manholes and service-box covers, and 30 charged lampposts. The Bronx had 6 electrified manhole and service-box covers and 25 charged lampposts. READ LINK
(2) The downtown electrocution of a 9-year-old boy was caused by the failure of the insulation in a 480-volt wire in the base of a light post, according to a report from investigators. READ LINK
(3)An ungrounded light pole is being eyed as the possible cause of death of a 9-year-old girl at a self-serve carwash Monday evening, a city official said Wednesday.
(YOU NEED TO SCROLL DOWN A BIT TO FIND THE STORY) READ LINK
These are just a small hand full of incidents that are occuring out there.
Lamp posts are meant to be safe because they're out in the general public but as you have just read, that's not always the case. Lamp posts are meant to give light to an area and to be left alone... not to be played on or in.
Also, if we teach our children it's okay to lift up covers to this equipment, will they know what not to enter when they're alone? Probably NOT. READ LINK
Let's not have our kids get-used-to playing around this equipment.
There are so many other places we can hide and find geocaches, let's stay away from electrical equipment.
So, are LPC's safe?
Thanks for stopping by,
Saturday, January 19, 2008
The content of this Blog consists of my own personal opinions and does not express those of my employer(s), past or current.
My intention is to do no harm and to be in good faith without malicious intent. To not injure others, defame, or libel. This is my opinion and advice, not counsel, and what I write in this Blog is not to be taken as fact nor absolute. If people use my advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations, and are injured, I am not to be held responsible.
My thoughts and opinions change from time to time as I come to learn more and develop an understanding about the subjects and issues that I’m blogging about. This blog just provides a snapshot of my thoughts and opinions and may change over a period of time. I reserve the right to evolve my knowledge, thoughts, and viewpoints over time and to change them without assigning any reason.
My Blog contains hypertext links to information created and maintained by other people and organizations. These links provide additional information that may be useful or interesting and are being provided consistent with Johnnygeo's Geocaching Electrical Safety Blog. I do not control or guarantee the accuracy, availability, relevance, timeliness, "family-friendliness" or completeness of this outside information. Listing here should not be interpreted as endorsement by this Blog. Please use your own discretion when surfing the web.
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Monday, March 26, 2007
This post is a little different than my normal electrical safety rant but you'll still enjoy it...
Are you ready to help out this year in a Geocaching CITO (Cache In Trash Out)? Good job! Here's some information I want to share with you before you go out grabbing for garbage to clean up a special area.
Keep your eyes open for used needles.
HIV, Hepatitis B and C are diseases that are carried in the blood. These diseases aren’t spread through everyday contact. If needles are shared, individuals are exposed to the blood of another person. If a person is infected with hepatitis B or C or HIV, there’s a risk of the disease being spread.
Accidentally being pricked by a used needle may spread a disease to the individual.
Occasionally, needles are found in places where children play such as parks and school yards. When this happens, it’s important that the needle is safely collected and disposed of by an adult.
In last years Edmonton CITO we found a needle in the city park. Luckily we had a pre-CITO speach for kids on used needle safety.
Teach children these simple rules:
• If you find a needle don’t touch it!
• Tell an adult where you found the needle.
• If you are hurt by a needle, tell an adult. You will need to see a doctor right away.
What is the correct way to collect and dispose of a used needle?
• FOR ADULTS, Pick the needle up carefully –
don’t touch it with your bare hands. If you have gloves, wear them, or use a heavy cloth. If tongs are available, use them to pick up the needle.
• Hold the needle tip away from you. Be careful not to prick yourself.
• Place the needle with the tip downward in a can or plastic container with a lid. Seal securely.
• Call or bring the container to the health unit. Or, take the container to the police, hospital, emergency department, or a hazardous waste disposal site near you.
Always look to see what you're grabbing at and use a good pair of work gloves.
Making a CITO "pokey" stick to pick up garbage is safer yet. Safe against needles, glass and easy on your lower back.
It's easy to build a CITO "pokey" stick.
Find an old wooden broom stick, a couple hose clamps and a long nail. Once you attach the nail to the wooden broom stick with the hose clamps you may want to reinforce with duct tape.
Please teach children how to use these sticks safely. (not swinging them around and always keeping the point down)
You may be bending down occasionally around sharp tree branches, etc and handling a garbage pick-up pokey stick so you may want to wear a pair of safety glasses.
Will you be cleaning up near a roadway?
You may want to consider getting some reflective safety vests.
The more visible you are, the safer you are.
It's a good idea to wear a pair of boots with ankle support.
Don't forget to bring a bottle of water to keep hydrated.
As an event organizer it's a good idea to have a First Aid Kit on site.
There may be other hazards at your CITO that have not been addressed in this post so please address those hazards with proper controls before you start your event.
Safety is everyone’s responsibility.
Enjoy your CITO and please keep safe,
(Ref. www.norwestchc.org needle safety )
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Copper Theft, What's the Danger To Us?
Geocaching Electrical Safety
Let me explain yet another reason why you should not hide geocaches on power utility equipment (ie, power and lighting poles, transformers, switching cubicles, streetlight cabinets, etc.)
A recent rise in the worldwide price of copper has sparked a massive demand for the metal and led to a dramatic increase in the number of copper-related thefts across North America and the other continents.
Try typing “copper theft” in Google. You’ll come up with 1,060,000 results.
Thieves are stealing copper wire from many sources.(ie, church roof thefts(link), plumbing pipe, wire) This includes copper wire from power companies. Copper wire has been stolen from substations, fallen wire and equipment from poles after storms, and the copper "ground wire" in power boxes just like the boxes that may be in your front yard. A lot of these thieves have been killed in the process. Link
The “ground wire” electrically connects equipment to the ground to protect the general public and employees who work on the equipment. ie, If a power box has an internal wire come loose and the wire touches the inside of the metal box, electricity will run from that box through a copper “ground wire” to the ground.Thieves are stealing these "ground wires", taking them to scrap yards for cash.
**Remember, when the “ground wire” has been stolen and/or the electrical equipment has been tampered with, a hazard may exist when a person touches the electrical equipment. The person who touches it may be the path to ground for electricity and may be electrically shocked.**
Power Utilities everywhere are very concerned about this situation. Please read these links...
Please do not to try to hide or find geocaches on electrical equipment. There are so many other places we can hide our caches.
Thanks for listening,
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Geocaching Electrical Safety No-No's
(updated Sept 24/10)
Here are some examples of where you should NOT hide geocaches because of the danger of electricity.
Power transmission tower legs are private property and are not meant for anyone to hide geocaches on them.
Please don't hide geocaches on power boxes. The outside of the box is usually safe but is not meant to be played on. Like everything else, equipment does fail and you do not want to be anywhere around this equipment when it does fail.
Also, never open an electrical box, of any kind. If you find an electrical box open please contact the local power utility immediatly. Again, this is private property and hiding a geocache on this type of equipment without permission is going against the Geocaching.com guidelines. I don't know of a power utility company that would okay a game piece on any of their electrical equipment.
Stay away from outdoor metering equipment. My issue here is that I don't want kids getting comfortable playing around electrical equipment. (ie... a cover/lid is left open by a vandel and a kid reaches into an energized panel because they're "used to" this equipment and gets fatally shocked.)Also, this equipments fails as well.
How about placing a micro under a lamp post skirt? Do you think that's safe? Electrical street lighting can fail just like all the other equipment. It's not a smart place to geocache.(link)
A geocache placed inside the opening of a lamp post is a very serious safety concern and should NEVER be created. This type really scares me because of the live electrical wiring that's just inside the opening. There is a high risk of a severe electrical shock with this type of scenario. If a cache is found inside a lamp post, please contact a Geocache.com reviewer to have the cache archived and the local utility company to close the lamp post opening properly.
Never enter a substation. They're extremely dangerous.
***Remember, you can't always hear, see or smell electricity. It's an invisable DANGER.***
If you feel a geocache is placed in a dangerous location, please contact the cache owner. If you get no response from the cache owner then email a Geocach.com Admin who approve's caches.
I've had many people email me saying that they had a bunch of caches archived because of an electrical danger.
I believe geocaching was meant more for the woods and safe urban settings, not power equipment.
We have so many other places we can hide our geocaches. Let's stay away from electrical equipment.
Thanks for visiting my blog and feel free to add comments,
Sunday, December 31, 2006
Overhead Danger, Geocaching Electrical Safety
An Ohio teen was killed December 19, 2006 by not knowing the danger of overhead power lines. He tried to retrieve a dog leash off a power line with a long branch and was electrocuted.
Please stay away from overhead power lines. Electricity in those lines will take any path possible to "go to ground". Don't you be the path.
You should NEVER play around power lines. This includes climbing trees near power lines (the assumption being that a cache may be hidden up off the ground in a tree), throwing any objects into them or flying kites around them. Electricity in those lines are many thousands of volts. Electricity will travel down a kite string, through you to get to the ground.(link)
I conduct demo's for schools and contractors using kite string. We energize a demo board with approximately 4000 volts and place kite sting across the energized demo power line to a grounded point. This kite string burns immediatly from electricity running though it. Please don't use metal laced kite string. Metal laced is used for the extra durability. Metal laced kite string is much more dangerous because in conducts electricity much easier.
We also place tree branches in the demo board.
There are still a lot of people who don't know that electricity will travel across tree branches and wooden 2 by 4's when there's a high enough voltage. Power lines have that dangerous voltage.
If you see an object caught up in a power line please contact your local power utility to have them remove it.
*Also, do you remember the incident regarding the Scouts setting up a tent under power lines? (link)
Years ago, before the safety field, one of my job tasks was to work on power lines (that's me below). It takes years of training and experience, special tools and equipment and a constant respect of this invisable energy to work safely on or around these lines.
Next time you're outdoors setting up equipment, etc... remember this important safety slogan... Look up and live.
Play safe out there,
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Downed Power Lines
You're out on the trails Geocaching and come across a downed power line... What do you do?
-Stay back at least 30 feet (10 meters) from a downed power line and anything it's near. Power lines don't always spark or jump like in the movies. A downed line may have no signs that it is energized.
-Call 911 for help.
-Make others in the area aware that there is a dangerous downed power line on the ground and that they should away from it as far as they can.
When a line(wire)is laying on the ground, electricity travels from that wire into the ground and energizes a large portion of the ground. This dangerous effect is called "Step Potential". This is why you need to stay away as far as you can because this effect can kill.
Step Potential is like when you throw a rock into a pond, you see ripple of waves get smaller and smaller from the rocks's entry... electricity is the same, where the wire is touching the ground, ripples or waves of electricity are getting less and less powerful.
Also remember, when Geocaching, keep your eyes open on the trails for all types of hazards. (holes, steep cliffs, wildlife, etc)
Stay alert and play safe,
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Cord Safety at Home, Geocaching Electrical Safety
Let me talk to you a little about fire prevention. The next time you’re at home on the computer looking at Geocaching.com, take a look at the electrical cords and plug-ins around your computer.
-Do the cords look damaged in any way? A damaged electrical cord can cause a short resulting in an injury or a fire. Look for cracks, breaks, nicks, separated wiring, frayed, and any other questionable conditions.
If you find a damaged cord, please replace it immediately. Seriously… get down and take a look.
-Never overload a socket. In particular, the use of "octopus" outlets, outlet extensions that accommodate several plugs, is strongly discouraged. (picture seen at the top) These devices may heat up when overloaded and may cause a fire.
Use a rated Power-bar that is designed for multiple plug-ins. (seen just below)
-Check periodically for loose wall receptacles. If the box is moving around in the wall whenever you plug and unplug a cord have an electrician tighten it up for you.
-Cords ran under furniture or rugs/carpet/mats may overheat or become damaged.
-Do not remove the ground prong of a three-prong plug. Electrical equipment with a three-prong plug requires a three-hole receptacle. That ground prong is protecting your life.
- When using extension cords, place them so that they do not lie in a traffic area (tripping hazards) or through doors which may be closed and cut the cord.
Christmas time is coming near and these safety rules apply to indoor Christmas tree lighting as well…
So what are you waiting for? Get down and take a look.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Hypothermia by Bush Creatures, Guest Article
HYPOTHERMIA Guest Article by Bush Creatures
Bush Dad is the senior member of the Bush Creatures caching team. He is a long-time employee of a provincial fish and wildlife agency in Canada, worked as provincial boating officer, enforced boating safety regulations and has received training in cold water survival, ice travel and rescue and wilderness survival. He has, unfortunately, participated in body recoveries after boating accidents and has been involved in some major wrecks of his own before smartening up. The junior member of the Bush Creatures (thirteen year old Bush Girl) thinks her dad is a nag on wilderness safety and hypothermia but has learned that her dad doesn’t mess around, particularly when it comes to traveling with precious cargo.
October 30 on a northern lake. There had been a skim of ice on the water when we put the boat in to travel about a kilometer to our favorite duck hunting island. Our island was well sheltered from the rising wind by a larger island and it was a good day. By 5:00 p.m., we were chilled and tired and hungry and it was time to head back to the camp. Boat was heavy as we also had the decoys and blinds that we had taken out the evening before. Lake was choppy with a lot of spray. We passed the big island and turned into the wind for the 500 m ride back to the camp.
Three large waves later and we were swimming beside a swamped boat and grabbing for the life jackets we should have been wearing. It was fine, nobody panicked, the boat had enough floatation to hang on to in spite of our heavy clothes until we grabbed for the life-jackets floating beside us and got them on. Nobody drowned so this would be another story to laugh about. Unfortunately, the story goes on. Half an hour later as we were blown to the far shore, I was completely incapable of a rational thought, violent shivering had me unable to handle the minimal survival gear we had with us and it would have felt great just to close my eyes, let go of the swamped boat and die. I had just met up with hypothermia.
Hypothermia is generally defined as a lowering of body temperature below 35C or 95F. By the time the body core cools to below about 32C or 90F, consciousness is affected and when the core temperature cools to below 30C or 86F, you die. Hypothermia is not particularly painful as the brain is shutting down at the same time as the body is. In fact, most victims will not realize they are suffering from hypothermia. In cold water, a victim can become hypothermic in under 30 minutes and will die in under 90 minutes. On land, the process of hypothermia typically takes longer. One set of government statistics indicate that approximately 140 Canadians and 800 Americans die from hypothermia each year. However, these stats could be considerably low if there was a way to determine how many drowning victims drowned after loosing consciousness because of hypothermia or how many land victims, particularly in wilderness settings, met with fatal accidents because of a loss of capability due to hypothermia.
Even though the lake we were on was near freezing, the adrenaline rush of hitting the water made any shock from the cold water pass quickly. In fact, all those swimming lessons came back at me and, after kicking my rubber boots off, I swam quite easily in heavy clothes and put on one of the life jackets floating nearby and then pitched a couple more over to my friends. At that point I was only 200 m from shore and debated keeping going to dry land. Then the standard “stay with the boat” line kicked in and we all swam back to the boat (more on that line to come). We were all safe and sound, nobody had drowned, we had life jackets on by now and were holding on to a boat with enough floatation to keep us above the waves even though it was full of water and nobody could get back in. Looked like all we had to do was to hold on until the wind blew us over to the far shore. Of course, I was missing some smarts on heat loss and hypothermia...
HYPOTHERMIA (Part 2 of 3) Guest Article by Bush Creatures
The ingredients for a close-up and personal visit with hypothermia had started coming together the moment I left the cabin in the morning to head down to the boat. Staying up too late and getting up too early had left me tired. There was no time for breakfast and not enough time to pay attention to the sky and weather. There was no plan and minimal survival gear if we dumped the boat. I had got away with that kind of inattention a thousand times before, coming back none the wiser. Not this time. I was now holding on to a swamped boat and up to my neck in very cold water.
Hypothermia is simply a loss of body heat to the point where body functions are impaired or stop. Whether geocaching or boating, the formula for loss of body heat is the same: radiation (the body radiates heat into a colder environment), conduction (direct contact between the body and a colder environment. Water takes heat from the body about 25 times faster than air.), convection (cold molecules moving across the warmer body like wind-chill) and evaporation (where heat is lost when liquids turn to gas such as through perspiration or when breathing out warm air on a very cold day). The variables are almost infinite. What is the air or water temperature, how well is the body insulated from cold, wet or wind, how fast is the body losing heat from exertion? What natural insulation and heat sources does the body have?
As we hung on to the boat and tried to guess how long before we would be blown to the far shore, I was a feast for heat loss. Radiation and conduction into the cold water was the number one threat although the cold wind blowing across my face and head and the puffs of my breath in the cold air were also helping. I am not naturally well-insulated and the lack of body fuel (remember that skipped breakfast?) didn’t help. Strangely enough, I didn’t feel cold. Heck, at no point in the incident did I feel particularly scared. I should have been scared. By now I was close to the point of no-return.
Symptoms of hypothermia can vary almost as much as the causes but all relate to loss of body functions. Confusion, weakness, lack of coordination, drowsiness and violent shivering are all early symptoms. The bad news is that it is not always possible to see those symptoms in yourself. My pals were not hypothermia smart either but at some point as we floated along, two of them moved me between them and locked my arms in theirs because I was talking but making no sense and they were afraid I was going to let go of the boat.
The only good news about the high winds that day was an arrival at the far shore in about fifteen minutes. I will never forget how good it felt to feel rock and sand under my feet and then crawl onto dry land. Safe and sound and out of the water. No drowning victim today. Then the violent shivering really kicked in. I got up and stumbled around with enough brain function left to try to make a fire out of the drift wood lying on the shore. I had a lighter and couldn’t even hold it although it was so wet it wouldn’t have fired up anyway. In my mental and physical state, even a water-proof match container was too technologically advanced. A space blanket would have been a great idea but I wouldn’t have been able to take it out of the plastic wrap if I even remembered I had it. Sudden immersion in cold water wearing jeans and a heavy parka hadn’t drowned me in spite of the stupid lack of a life jacket. But I was completely past the point of any attempt at self-rescue.
Hypothermia (Part 3 of 3) Guest Article by Bush Creatures
An individual can take steps to avoid hypothermia but once they have moved past the minor stage of hypothermia, it is up to others to save their lives because it is very unlikely that they can save themselves.
With proper planning and equipment, rescue from minor and moderate stages of hypothermia is very possible. NOTE, I DO NOT HAVE FORMAL MEDICAL TRAINING AND THE FOLLOWING ARE SUGGESTIONS BASED ON A FAIR BIT OF STUDY ON THE SUBJECT AND COMMON SENSE. IN A HYPOTHERMIC SITUATION, SEEK MEDICAL HELP. WHEN THE VICTIM IS UNCONSCIOUS AND HEART RATE AND BREATHING ARE SUFFICIENTLY LOW OR ABSENT, STANDARD FIRST AID SUCH AS CPR MAY ACTUALLY HARM THE VICTIM.
Stages of Hypothermia:
Mild – victim is cold, shivering and may be uncoordinated
Moderate – intense shivering, obvious lack of coordination, possible confusion
Severe – shivering may stop, very poor coordination, confusion. May lead to semi consciousness or unconsciousness, erratic respiration and heart beat
Treatment of Hypothermia:
Be aware of the risk – is the temperature and situation capable of causing hypothermia?
Recognize the symptoms – be aware of your companions’ behavior. Are they hypothermic?
Stop the cause – is shelter needed from the wind and cold? Are dry clothes needed? Remember my decision to stay with the swamped boat? Given what I know now about hypothermia and add the variables like temperature, wind, how long until we reached the far shore, I think I should have swam to shore. Would I have made it, would I have been abandoning my buddies or getting them rescued faster? Tough call. I do know that had I been alone, swimming to shore would have been the only survivable option.
Increase available heat – add clothing, use a sleeping bag or space blanket, provide heat
Provide body fuel – warm drinks (no alcohol, limit caffeine), provide carbohydrates, proteins and fats if the victim is capable of eating and drinking
Seek medical help
As we huddled together on that wind swept shore, soaking wet in an air temperature of around freezing, I was at the end stage of moderate hypothermia. Due to lack of proper planning, we were all in various stages of hypothermia and our options were limited. No shelter, dry clothes or other gear to reduce heat loss, no means of increasing heat and no body fuel. We hadn’t been aware of the risk and we didn’t have the equipment to stop the cause and provide heat and body fuel. Any form of help was miles away.
At this point, we got very lucky. I was the luckiest for traveling with pals who could still get their act together and knew their stuff. If no-one was going to come and get us and we lacked the gear to survive, we had get out of there. Using an ammo can and bailing bucket, we were able to get the boat above water. Then, wonder of wonder, the wet motor started after numerous pulls on the cord. The boat was still half full of water and the waves were still too high but I was hauled to the boat and one of the guys managed to get me across enough of the lake to be in walking distance of the cabin. The other guys willingly stayed back in spite of their own risk because the boat wouldn’t carry their weight. At the time, I was clueless but, since then, I often think of that. What can I say? Thanks.
It was a happy ending. I made it to the cabin and heat and then the other guys got back too. Four wet, cold but alive guys sitting together under a blanket in front of the fireplace. Don’t get much better! From that moment on, I vowed that there was no way that I, my family, my friends or anyone else I travel the trails with would face the life threatening situation of hypothermia without a lot of ammunition to fight back.
There is a good chance that most of us will not face a life threatening situation in the water or woods but it is out there. Add to that, the possibility of encountering someone else needing assistance and it is an obligation to be prepared, to be equipped and to have the skills to respond. I duck hunt several times a year. The fall hunting season normally brings temperatures as low as freezing. I geocache almost every weekend of the year and, for the winter months, in temperatures far below freezing. Even in the spring and fall with above zero temperatures, I can expect to encounter the combination of temperature, wind and wet that can cause hypothermia. I prepare for it.
Plan your geocaching day. Will it be drive-by caches in an urban setting or bush caching? Dress and pack equipment appropriate to the caches. Then don’t deviate from your plans (besides, if you are caching solo, you have already advised a family member or another cacher which caches you are doing, right?).
Sky watch and check the forecast and plan for sudden extremes appropriate to the season. Encountering an unexpected rainstorm or falling in a creek in the spring and fall while wearing light, non-waterproof clothes is great food for hypothermia. Personally, I feel safer from hypothermia bush caching at below zero temperatures because I am always dressed for it and pack the gear necessary to face a geocaching wreck. At warmer temperatures, too many assumptions can get made. While bush caching, I wear or take the clothes needed to survive sleeping out there.
Take what you need to face the worst possible scenario and know how to use it and know it works. There is a wealth of advice on the Web about survival kits. Check it out. Personally I have several caching packs depending on the type of caching I am doing. The precious cargo that caches many trails in the bush with me, packs her own basic kids kit.
Can’t resist a “check your equipment” story. Remember our inability to light a fire on that wind swept shore? Vowing not to put up with that again, I bought several waterproof match containers and then figured that I would check them out. One type is the aluminum kind with the lanyard ring. Once sealed, I had difficulty reopening it while messing around with it in the warm basement. Given memories of violent shivering and lack of coordination while hypothermic, that one got tossed. Then I tested the plastic ones. Easier to open but two out of four of them leaked when I submerged them under a brick in the kitchen sink. Whoops? That was easily solved with a bit of waxy, leather boot waterproofing in the threads of the container top but I’m glad I found that out in the kitchen sink and not when I really needed fire.
I have found some brand new survival whistles to be defective when taken straight from the bag. We used to pack a few glow sticks until I discovered that they won’t work after cracking at the bottom of the pack. How often do you check your flashlight? For the sake of the couple of dollars, next time you are on the trails in cold weather, sacrifice a space blanket by trying it. How warm are they? What’s the best way to wrap them around yourself or someone else for maximum warmth.
While on the trails, look out for potential hypothermia hazards. A fall into a beaver pond on a crisp fall day can get you every bit as hypothermic as my adventure on the lake. We only cross beaver dams or ice or other water hazards if we know we can survive an unplanned soaking. By the way, how dry will those spare clothes in your larger, long distance bush pack stay when you fall in? I love orange garbage bags. They keep our stuff dry, they can be used as raincoats, signals or picnic blankets and always good for CITO.
Cache In A Group
One cacher on the trails means a do-it-yourself plan for survival. Two cachers doubles the survival options but means one lonely, disabled cacher while the other cacher heads out alone for help. Three cachers means the victim has support but the other cacher still goes it alone while getting out to seek rescue. Four cachers and more is perfection! Do kids count as cachers? Of course. My rules with Bush Girl are her safety is #1. Don’t follow Bush Dad through the ice to rescue him but following #1 first, then follow #2 if you can, help your caching partner. If #1 and #2 work, then #3 is stabilize your partner in that space blanket and those dry clothes and then #4, get help fast.
If tech has provided us with the ability to use multi-billion dollar military satellites to find peanut butter jars and ammo-cans in the woods, it has also provided us with cell-phones and radios. Batteries good and are the electronics water-proofed in double zip lock bags? Can clever little Bush Girl call 911 and give them a good description of our location? Of course she can. She has her own basic etrex and knows how to use it and knows how to use the cell-phone and our local air ambulance service has a GPSr too. Give them our coords and wave that orange garbage bag, Bush Girl!
General Geo-Caching Safety
Can’t resist repeating my own geo-caching safety creed, particularly for bush caching:
Travel in a group or let some-one know the caches you are doing and a call-for-help time if you have not returned.
Mark your vehicle as a waypoint.
Carry spare batteries for the GPSr and pack a non-electronic compass (compasses don’t run out of batteries.) The lanyard on my Garmin has an attached compass and working whistle.
Dress right for potential weather.
Pack the right survival gear and know how to use it.
Be aware of potential wrecks in your cache hunt such as hypothermia and other dangers and plan for them.
Stay tuned to your surroundings. Look up for leaning trees, look around for potential falls while you are looking down at your GPSr or looking for the cache.
This is an overview of hypothermia from the angle of a victim not an expert. Googling hypothermia on the internet will provide a wealth of additional information. In serious hypothermia situations, consult medical advice. Then again, with some basic common sense and some basic knowledge on avoiding hypothermia, you may never have to experience or treat hypothermia.
Thanks to Johnnygeo for the safety page.
Happy and safe caching!
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Teaching Electrical Safety
Geocaching Electricity Safety
I enjoy what I do. Throughout the school year I'll go from school to school in Edmonton, Alberta and teach indoor and outdoor electrical safety. Usually groups of kids consist of grades one to five. We'll usually present in a school gym in front of 100-300 kids.
I'll show them a cartoon on safety and stop it every 5 minutes to show them live examples of what's dangerous.
It seems to really connect for them and it's amazing on how much information they remember. This demo takes about 45 minutes.
Also, my work partner and I will demonstate at our shop or on the road an electrical safety demo for adults. We have a demonstration board with a live wire we energize to 4000 volts. Once we energize the wire we fry branches, kite-string and wieners. (It's amazing how many people don't know electicity will travel down kite-string, tree branches and wooden 2 by 4's when it's a high enough voltage) We'll show this demo to general contractors, crane and equipment operators, the fire department and other interested parties.
As we are going through this demo we talk about the fatalities and injuries we've investigated, the personal protective equipment and clothing we use, how much training and experience is required for our employees to be competant to work on our power lines, limits of approach to our lines and many other items.
In the last 8 minutes of the demo we show a "voluntary"slide show of pictures of people who have been injured by electricity. For some people these pictures are difficult to sit though as they are graphic. We give a lot of warning and explain that they may leave if they want to. As we show the pictures we explain what happened in that particular incident and also explain the lasting effects of the incident. These pictures hit our point across quite strongly. The whole demo takes about an hour.
Thanks for listening,