Electric safety lessons
Alfalfa Electric Cooperative teams up with Kansas co-ops in safety conference for driving teens
Electric safety demonstration. Photo by Melanie Wilderman
Around 500 high school students from nine schools in Northwest Oklahoma gathered at the Alfalfa County Fairgrounds on Sept. 25 to watch men in safety gear blow up hotdogs and flash-cook lemons with the power of electricity.
“They enjoy seeing stuff burn up,” said Danny Law, safety and compliance manager with Pioneer Electric Cooperative in Ulysses, Kansas, and one of the men who led the demonstration showing just what 7,620 volts of electricity can do.
The main goal of the day was a refresher in electricity safety, especially safety involving downed powerlines. This event—the second annual high school safety program—was a combined effort of Alfalfa Electric Cooperative in Cherokee, Oklahoma, Pioneer Electric, and Southern Pioneer Electric Company in Medicine Lodge, Kansas, which provided the large trailer, complete with a dummy, for the electricity demonstration.
Robyn Turney, Alfalfa Electric communication specialist, said this training is important for teenagers, as many of them work on family farms and have recently begun driving—or will be soon.
In past years, Alfalfa Electric has provided safety training for second- and third-graders, but Turney said she and her colleagues were concerned they were not seeing the students again when they were older to reinforce the safety lessons. So, the program was updated for a teenage audience, and the first high school-geared safety program was offered in 2016.
Turney, who retired from teaching English after 33 years, understands how frequently schools receive requests for students to attend special programs. For this reason, they plan to offer this training every third year to hopefully catch all the students at least once during high school.
Before the live demonstration, which included administering high-voltage shocks to hot dogs, lemons and tree branches, Greg Goetz, Alfalfa Electric CEO, welcomed the students and teachers, and Mike Salsbury, Pioneer Electric safety and compliance specialist, presented potentially life-saving information to the group.
“There is nothing more important to us than safety,” Goetz said in his introduction.
While safety when facing downed powerlines was the core of the presentation, Salsbury also focused on distracted driving, which affects teenagers at a high rate and can lead to car crashes with electrical poles.
“Anything to do with your cell phone can be a distraction,” Salsbury reminded them.
Turney also spoke during the presentation, relating several stories of dangerous, real scenarios involving vehicles, including school buses, and downed powerlines. She reminded the students they may need to teach or remind their parents of the information they learned from this event.
“If we help one person through this training, it’s more than worth it,” Turney said. “We try to find more ways every year to help the community and to educate, and this program does both.”
Turney also said the event for the 500+ students would not have come together without the help of all the Alfalfa Electric employees, the Cherokee Family Career and Community Leaders of America (who cooked and served lunch), and the cooperation of both Pioneer Electric and Southern Pioneer.
Goetz agreed that the older students need this reminder, and that the live demonstration is key to a successful lesson.
“The visual of the demo really has an impact on them—the kids walk away talking about it,” Goetz said.