OTEC has recently adopted the Rural Electric Safety Achievement Program (RESAP) in order to achieve a high standard of safety for our employees, member-owners, communities and businesses within the cooperative. We are committed to providing clear expectations, education and training to reach our goal of continually improving our safety culture. We incorporate safety as an integral aspect of all operations and a core value of OTEC.
The Senior Leadership at OTEC has given their commitment to safety through the Commitment to Zero Contacts and RESAP programs, and in return have asked for and received the same commitment from our employees. This is essential in defining and operating a successfully safety program that protects our people and the public.
Winter Storm Safety
Snow and ice storms are an inevitable part of the winter season in Eastern Oregon. However, they can lead to outages and downed power lines. OTEC wants to remind everyone to take the proper steps now to be prepared so you can stay safe and warm should you find yourself in the dark during a severe winter event.
Stay away from downed power lines
In a winter storm emergency, restoring power and heat to members is OTEC’s highest priority, and crews work around the clock to restore service. Even so, it can take days to repair the devastating damage of a winter storm. If you are in the midst of storm recovery, avoid going outside if possible. Downed power lines could be submerged in snow and ice and difficult to identify. When outside, treat all downed and hanging lines as if they are energized electric lines: Stay away, warn others to stay away and immediately contact OTEC. Remember that downed power lines do NOT have to be arcing, sparking, or moving to be live and deadly.
Severe winter storms often bring heavy accumulation of ice and snow, which can lead to downed power lines and extended outages. OTEC crews will work hard to restore power but being prepared to stay inside your home without power for an extended period is a smart idea.
Prepare your home to keep out the cold with insulation, caulking, and weather stripping. Learn how to keep pipes from freezing. Install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups.
Pay attention to weather reports and warnings of freezing weather and winter storms. Sign up for your community’s warning system by clicking on your county's link below:
The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.
Prepare a survival kit which includes food that does not require cooking and a large supply water (ready.gov recommends three to five gallons per person per day). Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication.
Also make sure you have a First Aid kit, blankets, flashlight, battery-powered radio, and extra batteries.
Create an emergency supply kit for your car. Include jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water, and non-perishable snacks. Keep the gas tank full.
Survive During and Stay Safe & Warm
In the event of an outage, an alternate heating source—such as a fireplace, propane space heater, or wood stove—may be used. Extreme caution should be taken.
Make sure carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors are working properly.
Do not use a gas-powered oven for heating. A gas oven may go out or burn inefficiently, leading to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Do not use a gas or charcoal grill inside the home. Do not use charcoal briquettes in the fireplace.
If you use a portable generator to power a heating source, be sure the generator is located outside your house for proper ventilation.
Ideally, your family will stay warm until the power comes back on. But keep an eye on family members for signs of hypothermia, which include shivering, drowsiness, and mental and physical slowness. The elderly and young children are particularly vulnerable to hypothermia. Call 911 immediately if you notice these symptoms. At least one telephone in the house that does not depend on electricity should be available in the case of a power outage. Make sure to also check on your neighbors, especially if they are elderly.
In traumatic situations, it may be instinctive to flee as soon as possible. A car accident is a good example of this. However, if you are in a car accident with a power line, the safest place is often inside the car.
When a car crashes into a power pole, the pole may fall down, lines may fall on your car or nearby, and the area around your car may become charged with electric energy. If you stepped out of the car in this scenario, your body would become the path to ground for the electricity, and you could be electrocuted.
While downed lines can sometimes show they are live by arcing and sparking with electricity, this is not always the case. Power lines do not always show signs that they are live, but are just as lethal.
Stay in the car if you are in a car accident with a power pole. Warn those who try to come near your car to help that they must stay far away. Call 911 for help, and wait until a professional from the electric utility tells you it is safe to leave the car.
The exception to this rule is if your car is on fire. In that case, jump clear of the vehicle without touching it and the ground at the same time. Then hop away with feet together. This way there will not be a voltage difference between your two feet, which would give electricity the chance to flow through your body.
If you witness a car collision with a power pole, do not approach the accident. By trying to help, you will put your own life at risk. The best thing to do is contact emergency responders and stay far away from the accident.
Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative is proud to have created a new training video in 360-degree format to teach agriculture workers about the hazards of working near power lines.
This innovative video demonstrates OTEC's commitment to our member-owners and their safety.