Sunday, September 17, 2006

Geocaching Electrical Safety


I've been geocaching for about a year now. I have found many creative types of geocaches. This is what makes it fun and challenging. Lately I've been concerned about the amount of geocaches that are hidden in and around electrical equipment.

I am a Safety Coordinator for a Power Utility here in Alberta. It is my job to look out for the men and women who work on our electrical lines and equipment. It's also my job to look out for the general public.One of my job tasks that I really enjoy is teaching kids at schools electrical safety smarts. I'll go to elementary schools throughout the year to present a safety cartoon and explain in detail the indoor and outdoor electrical hazards that exist. I explain real life examples of people getting hurt really bad and death due to electricity. I show them what dangerous wires, boxes and other equipment looks like. I teach them to stay away from all electrical lines and equipment and not to play on guard rails that sometimes protect the high voltage electrical equipment.,br>
I am asking all parents and kids not to geocache around any electrical equipment. This is power poles, electrical boxes that are in your yard or power boxes in some other location.Please let me explain my concerns.I want you to remember two very important characteristics of electricity.

1. Electricity always wants to go back to the ground.

2. Electricity is lazy. It will take shortcuts to get to the ground.
That could be a ladder touching a overhead power line or a geocacher touching the side of a damaged electrical box. Cars hit these types of boxes all the time and sometimes there are no visible signs of damage. Inside there may be wires loose that come undone due to impact and cause the ground to be energized. (Step Potential/Ground being electrified)

Also, the cabinet may become energized and when you touch the cabinet the electricity will pass through you to get to the ground.(Touch Potential)

In North America we have had fatalities due to Step & Touch Potential. There is no second chance.

Sometimes equipment just fails. The insulating factors that protect the public may fail due to age and possibly energize the box.

The City of Edmonton transformers have a voltage of 13,800. That's over 100 times the voltage in your wall that you may use when you plug in a toaster. Imagine that going through you. Just don't take the chance.

I am asking in behalf as a Safety Professional and Geocacher please not to hide caches on or around electrical equipment and not to even look for a cache that may be on or around any electrical equipment. If you believe that it is in a hazardous zone please contact the person who placed the geocache. If that is not a successful route please contact the person who approved it. Most of the time the approver of a geocache is not aware that it is in a dangerous zone. Let's look out for each other.
Thank you for listening to my concerns and play safe,