Safety training day helps linemen and first responders learn about down power line emergencies
BOX ELDER, S.D. — West River Electric, with the help of the Rapid City Fire Department, held a safety training day with a number of first responders on Tuesday, June 28 at the Brink Training Facility.
The training was a mock mayday call after four linemen were “electrocuted” by a downed power line, starting off with a 9-1-1 call.
“It was definitely good. You talk about it and you can memorize everything, but then once it’s there and it’s actually going on and thankfully enough, it wasn’t a real one. It’s just a practice one. But still, you still get worked up in the moment doing it.” Tucker Hohn, journeyman lineman for West River Electric, said. “Just practicing it, and your body having a muscle memory for it will definitely help out in the future.”
The first responders that were dispatched to the scene were a part of several agencies like the Box Elder Volunteer Fire Department, Wall Ambulance Service, Rapid City Fire Department, Pennington County Sheriff’s Department and South Dakota State Troopers.
Everyone was able to learn the process and be aware of the specific situation through the training.
The first responders were only given some information; they didn’t know the number of people or where those people were at on the scene.
“Having a downed power line and somebody getting electrocuted is usually a very rare low frequency event, but we go to downed power lines on a daily basis. So, doing these trainings also helps keep us on our toes when we do go to the down power lines,” Mike Bartling, captain of the Rapid City Fire Department, said.
Since live power lines don’t occur often, most people aren’t aware of how close they can be to it — giving law enforcement, who are usually first on a scene, the chance to learn this range.
Two officers who ended up a little too close to the wire had to join the four who were already “electrocuted” to show the space they can be in.
“You’re going to have stuff not go exactly how it’s supposed to, but for the most part, it went pretty decent. We had some bad stuff happen, but that’s why we do it so we can work on it to get better,” Hohn said. “You talk about it and it sounds so easy. Then to get here and do it and just trying to remember all the steps and making sure everyone’s informed that the lines down on the ground and if you come in contact, it could possibly kill you. Just trying to keep everyone clear of the line, especially we had plenty of sheriffs, ambulances, EMTs and firemen out here.”
Another part of the training for linemen was to kill the line and ground it.
“After you have it killed, technically, it’s still not dead because it’s not grounded. So, you have to take a high voltage tester, test the ground, make sure it’s zero, hang the ground on it. And once there’s a ground hung on the source side and then where the source goes to, then it’s dead and you can touch the line,” Hohn explained.
Despite some setback during the exercise, the groups were able to work together and complete the training in about 30 minutes.
“I thought it was super important as well as what they did for all of us to train together, and we learn a whole bunch from doing these trainings. We were hoping we’d set it up well so that those guys could learn something from it as well. And, hopefully it kicked off good, and I think everybody learned a lot,” Capt. Bartling said. “It was a privilege to get to work with West River Electric and letting us join them in this training and it’s always good for us to work with people in our community.”