How to reduce wire thefts, and the outages they spawn

Would you risk being hit by lightning for $100?

Seems a bit ludicrous, but desperate times cause folks to do foolish things. Thefts of copper, bronze, aluminum, and bronze are on the rise, at abandoned commercial buildings, empty homes, and—most dangerously—at power substations near neighborhoods.

We need your help to keep our equipment safe, prevent outages, and save lives. At an electric co-op in Oklahoma recently, metal thieves took off with about $100 worth of wire in a substation, but left behind a $1 million repair bill after a fire destroyed regulators, switches, and a $600,000 transformer. More than 3,500 consumers were temporarily left in the dark after the incident, although the co-op moved quickly to reroute power to affected areas.

It’s hard to understand why folks would put their life on the line for a few dollars. Many law enforcement officials believe that methamphetamine users are responsible for much of the problem. And the damage done to our system packs a big punch, since equipment can be ruined without the protection copper wires provide.

There’s also the potential for loss of life.

In 2010, metal theft-related deaths occurred in North Carolina, West Virginia, Illinois, and Ohio. The cost for scrap copper goes up and down, but recently it’s been on the rise—and so have robbery attempts. In January 2011 scrap copper sold for five times the amount it went for in 2001. We use copper to ground our equipment, protecting it from electrical surges and lightning by giving electricity a safe path to ground. We use a lot of copper wire in our substations, where we step-down high-voltage electricity arriving from distant power plants before it travels to your neighborhood. Then another transformer near your home—either mounted on a utility pole or in a green box on the ground—lowers the voltage again so you can use the power at home. Copper is an essential component every step of the way.

Our linemen are highly trained professionals who understand the dangers of working with electricity and take proper safety precautions. To protect the public we surround our substations with secure fencing and post warning signs. But some thieves will not be deterred. Please help us prevent these thefts. If you notice anything unusual, such as an open substation gate, open equipment, or hanging wire, call Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative immediately at (800) 342-4671. If you see anyone other than our utility personnel or contractors around substations or other electric facilities, call the police.


Be prepared. Have a generator.

Portable generators protect your family and possessions during a power outage. 

A small portable gasoline-powered electric generator can give power for appliances, sump pumps, air conditioners, heaters and other items that keep your home safe from flood waters and high or low temperatures.
It’s a small cost to protect your investments, and is the most economical way to supply power during a power outage. Use a portable generator of the proper wattage for your needs–at least 4,000 Watts for starters.
Portable generators give peace of mind and protection.

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Know How to Survive Auto Accidents Involving Power Lines

Instincts tell us to flee danger. Unfortunately, in vehicle accidents that bring down power lines, these natural inclinations can lead to tragic results.

Safe Electricity wants everyone to know: If your car hits a power pole, or otherwise brings a power line down, stay in your vehicle and wait until the local electric utility arrives on the scene and ensures that lines have been de-energized. If you come upon or witness an accident involving toppled power poles and lines, don’t leave your vehicle to approach the  scene.

The teens in this car crash knew to stay in the car until the power lines that had fallen were de-energized, thanks to a demonstration by their local electric cooperative. Source: Safe Electricity

Indiana teenagers Lee Whittaker and Ashley Taylor saw a power line safety demonstration at their high school and never dreamed their new knowledge would be put to the test. Five days later, they and two classmates were in a car that crashed into a utility pole, bringing live power lines to the ground.

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Earth Day: Have a safe & efficient home all year long

Want to maintain a safe and energy efficient house? There’s no better time to take the steps necessary than on Earth Day, which happens to be today. Better yet, we’ll give you a handy calendar to help you accomplish everything.

Click on the image below to open the full-sized, printable version.

Click on the image to open the printable version!

Bulbs Die Differently

Don’t be fooled; a popping sound or smoke means a CFL’s end-of-life mechanism WORKS

Worried when you hear a compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL) pop or sizzle? Despite confusion caused by an e-mail hoax circulating since April 2010, these sounds signal the bulb is working safely in its final hours. Smoke, a popping noise, and even a slight odor are typical and do not pose a fire risk as claimed in the misleading e-mail.

Sometimes the plastic at the base of a CFL will turn black as the bulb dims. This is normal in most cases because safety standards require use of special flame-retardant plastics in the base. Source: Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.

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