Summer Brings Need for Awareness

For Safety’s Sake, Know What’s Around You

The summer weather brings with it plenty of playtime and work time, and that’s why summer is also a particularly important time to pay attention to outdoor electrical safety.

This is a good time to make sure family members know about any possible outdoor electrical safety hazards and how to avoid them. Make sure all members of your household know never to play near or touch a power line with any part of their body or any object. Here are some ways to play it safe:

  • Kite flying is better done in open areas and parks, away from overhead lines.
  • If you see a downed power line, stay away and immediately report it to Northern Wasco County PUD at (541) 296-2226, or the local utility if you are in another area.
  • Never climb on or play around a utility pole, and never post signs or flyers on utility poles, which can endanger you and utility workers.
  • Don’t climb trees that are too close to power lines, even if the tree isn’t touching the line; the extra weight of a climber could cause a branch to connect with a power line.
PUD tree trimming worker works near the power lines to improve safety and reliability.

“You have to be aware of your surroundings when you’re kite flying, tree climbing, tree trimming, or doing any arborist activities,” says Paul Titus, Assistant Manager and Director of Engineering. “Take a good look around before you do any of those types of things. The lines are harder to see when the branches are leafed out. Also, it’s growing season so what might not have been close is now close. And temperature can affect the sag of conductors.”

The PUD has a good tree trimming program, including the services of a tree arborist on staff, Paul says. Tree trimmers are actively working now to eliminate potential hot spots.

“We’re continually going around and trimming and looking at overall safety. We’re also doing it to eliminate service interruptions in the future from big wind, ice, and snow storms.”

Overhead Work Safety

This time of year, property owners are also doing maintenance to their roofs.

“Be aware of your surroundings,” Paul says. “Before you start a roof project, make sure there are no conflicts with overhead lines and roofs.”

If you see any lines that present a potential risk, call the PUD Customer Service desk and ask for a consultation. “There may or may not be charges involved,” Paul says. “We will come out and look at the situation and determine if there is a risk. Each instance is different. It really doesn’t cost anything for us to come out and make a quick determination if there is going to be a problem or issue. It’s better to err on the side of caution.

Contact Customer Service at (541) 296 2226 and they will create a customer service order.

Call Before You Dig

Spring and summer are the peak times for construction and yard improvement work, both of which can mean a potential risk of digging into locations where electricity, natural gas, plumbing, telecommunications, and other underground facilities are located.

That's why anyone digging 12 inches or deeper into the ground is required by Oregon law to call 811 and request underground utility locator services. Utility easements can be in a variety of locations, Paul notes, and may not be readily apparent. “Easements may be to the rear of the property or the side property line,” he says. “You are required by law to call 811. More information on locator services is available online at the Dig Safely Oregon website.

Fire Scenes

Downed power lines can often present a risk at both wildfire and building fire scenes.

“We try to work hand-in with with MidColumbia Fire and Rescue and other responders in those instances,” Paul says. “We either offer assistance or look after our facilities — especially if we determine there is a downed wire or line — and take care of it at that point.”

Paul urges those inclined to watch firefighting efforts to do so from a distance to avoid personal danger and danger to first responders.

PUD personnel now have access to a tank and hose sprayer that will be mounted on a pickup, which allows them to get into areas that are more difficult to access. They are also taking fire training.

“It’s for the safety of our personnel so they won’t get into a situation where they can get trapped, and so they can also work hand in hand with other agencies responding,” Paul says.

Work Crew Safety

Summer is also the time of year when PUD crews and other work crews are regularly out on work sites. Paul cautions everyone to pay attention in any work zone, or around other PUD employees like meter readers.

Workers are equipped with hard hats and high-visibility clothing. “Please observe the speed limit or slow down to make sure our workers return home in a safe manner,” Paul says. “Please be aware of your surroundings and their surroundings so we don’t have any lost time or accidents.”