We constantly remind customers about the dangers of downed power lines. Often it’s on social media or through public safety campaigns; sometimes, we have to make these pleas in person.

Customer Design Supervisor Todd Woodrow, left, and Engineer Senior Dan Newhouse

Todd Woodrow, a customer design supervisor, and Dan Newhouse, a senior engineer, spent much of June 11 assessing damage caused by a powerful wind storm that battered our service territory the day before. That evening the pair was sent to downtown Zanesville to take a look at a large tree that had brought down a power line.

Turning the corner off the busy Pine Street thoroughfare, Woodrow and Newhouse entered a side street (blocked off by the city for safety) that was now filled with at least a dozen children playing in the road not far from the fallen tree. Woodrow was wearing his V-Watch personal volt detector as he walked toward it and, while investigating the area for damage, its alarm sounded to signify possible danger close by.

Woodrow backed up immediately and called for Newhouse to help. Together they slowly and carefully searched the scene. Then they saw it: a downed 4-kilovolt wire that was strong enough to burn the surrounding grass but not powerful enough to trip the safety isolation devices. In all likelihood, the live wire had posed a serious danger for almost 24 hours.

Woodrow and Newhouse immediately warned the children about the danger and kept them clear. (Three or four little girls had been playing no more than 10 to 15 feet from the live wire.) They called the Zanesville distribution system supervisor to request help and patiently guarded the hazard until a line crew arrived. Within the hour, repair work was underway and the area was soon made safe. Newhouse made additional recommendations so that our equipment – which was located on a hillside near some other large trees – was less likely to be threatened in the event of another storm.

Downed power lines don’t always look deadly; even trained professionals can’t always tell just by looking at them. That’s why it’s so important to keep your distance and for our employees to diligently wear their voltage detectors, particularly during storm restoration.

“This shows exactly why we wear those things, so they alert us to those hazards,” Woodrow said. “If I didn’t have my V-Watch on, it could have ended up a lot differently.”

AEP Ohio’s State Safety Committee voted to honor Woodrow and Newhouse as Safety Champions for the month of July in recognition of their commitment to looking out for others.

Published July 28, 2020

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