Alabama Power program puts Leeds first responders in the Safe-T-Zone

Alabama Power program puts Leeds first responders in the Safe-T-Zone
Linemen from Alabama Power's Trussville Crew Headquarters use live power equipment to show first responders what to look for and how to stay safe when working around power lines. (Brittany Faush-Johnson/Alabama NewsCenter)

Like snakes, power lines bite, so stay away.

That message came through loud and clear to first responders who attended Alabama Power’s Safe-T-Zone program at the company’s Leeds Office last week.

“It was a good refresher for us,” said Leeds Fire Chief Chuck Parsons. “I always caution our guys when we go out to house fires or wrecks to scan their surroundings and watch out for power lines. But this program reminded us of the hazards of coming into contact with power lines, whether they are on the ground, near meter sockets or tangled in trees.”

On June 14, 40 first responders, including police officers, firefighters and streets-and-sanitation employees from Leeds, Moody and Odenville, turned out for the high-voltage safety program.

Developed in 2011, the program vividly demonstrates the hazards of working and playing around power lines, using a real distribution system that generates 14,000 volts of electricity.

First responders get in the Safe T-Zone with Alabama Power program from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

During the presentation, Risk Management Analyst Bobby Hendon described various real-world scenarios, such as what can happen when digging in the yard without knowing where the underground power lines are located, removing a meter without disconnecting the electric service and touching a “hot” line with a ladder.

Lead Lineman Tag Jackson and Linemen Zac Lett, Paul Nelson and Taylor Coggin, all of Trussville Crew Headquarters, recreated these situations using distribution equipment mounted in a flatbed trailer. The system includes primary and secondary distribution lines, pad-mounted and underground transformers, three power poles, a meter and an outdoor light.

“When you’re around power lines, you don’t know if the wires are live or not,” said Leeds Office Manager Chris Barnes. “I think this program helped these first responders realize what to look for when they are out there and run into downed lines or other dangerous situations involving electricity.”

Safe-T-Zone is a partnership between Alabama Power Risk Services and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which targets firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, paramedics and sheriff’s deputies. Since 2012, Safe-T-Zone has been presented 221 times to 7,216 first responders across Alabama Power’s service territory.

“First responders are the target audience for Safe-T-Zone because they typically arrive on the scene of an accident before our crews,” Hendon said. “Our linemen in the field know that sometimes first responders can take chances or make assumptions about electrical equipment, so we want to ensure they know how to stay safe while doing their job and how to keep others safe, too.”

Barnes noted the program was well-received and he plans to offer it again next year.

“We had a great response,” Barnes said. “We had a lot of good questions and a lot of good feedback about how the program will help them. If we can just prevent one accident, it will have been a success.”

Safe-T-Zone is presented at no charge. Anyone who wants more information or to schedule a program can call 1-800-SAFE or email [email protected].

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