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News / Life / Clark County Life

Energy Adviser: Teach kids electrical safety

The Columbian
Published: May 14, 2019, 6:02am

Childhood today is filled with more electronic devices than ever before, yet electricity continues to be as dangerous as ever. The best thing adults can do is educate children of all ages about electrical dangers and take the time to minimize potential hazards.

“The most dangerous things about electricity are that you can’t see it, there’s no sound, no smell — really nothing to warn you when it’s on,” said Tommy Jensen, Clark Public Utilities safety and environmental manager. “It’s important to teach children how to recognize the risks and proactively avoid them.”

Now that the warm weather has finally arrived and summer vacation is right around the corner, kids are going to be spending lots of time outside. In light of that, make it a point to take them outside and teach them about the many dangers of overhead wires.

No one should ever touch a fallen wire by hand, with a tree branch, or anything else. Clark Public Utilities is one of several utilities that suspends lines above ground, but only a trained professional can tell if it’s an active electric wire or some other wire.

If you’ve got a climber in your life, be sure to teach them to stay out of trees growing near power lines. The line could have been damaged by a squirrel or something else, causing the live wire to be exposed. If a child then brushes against it, the results could be catastrophic.

Never let children dig around the green electrical boxes present in many neighborhoods. They risk severing an electrical line and causing an explosion.

Teens should be taught to never drive over downed power lines, as they can cause tires to explode.

Summer is great for picnics and outdoor parties, but mylar (metallic) balloons should be kept far, far away from overhead lines. If the two come in contact, the balloons can dramatically explode and cause power outages, fires, injuries or property damage.

Clark Public Utilities maintains more than 50 electrical substations throughout Clark County, many of which are close to residential and recreational areas. If kids send a ball or Frisbee over the fence they should never climb in to get it themselves. Extremely high amounts of electricity move through those sites and pose a serious danger to anyone without the training to be near the equipment.

“Do not, under any circumstances, try to go under a fence to find a way in,” Jensen said. “Call the utility and report it and we’ll send someone out there to get it. It might put the game on hold, but it’ll keep everyone safe.”

Phones, tubs don’t mix

People of all ages practically have their smartphones glued to their hands, but there are certain times in life when we’ve got to put them down. That’s especially true during bath time.

Parents should teach their kids to never bring their phones, or any other electronics, into the bathtub with them. Not only do they risk damaging the phone, but many people have died from having their phones plugged in the charger while using them in the tub.

Be sure to check your home’s electrical cords for any kind of fraying and your outlets for loose connections to prevent children from being electrocuted or starting a fire. Homes with young children should keep cords out of their reach entirely.

According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, around 2,400 children in the United States are treated for injuries caused by electrical outlets. Don’t let yours be one of them.

Secure unused wall outlets with plastic inserts or by blocking them with furniture. If you have extension cords in use, make sure they’re hidden behind furniture or in a hide-a-cord device. Also, teach your kids to never stick anything in an outlet or toaster.

Talk with your children early and often about electrical safety, and remember to do it in terms they can understand.

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.

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