Posted: September 6, 2012
New Local 1245 training program assists First Responders
By Rich Lane
The IBEW Local 1245 First Responder program is up and running.
This new initiative by Local 1245 seeks to train first responders, including police and firefighters, on how to deal with electrical emergencies until experienced utility personnel arrive on the scene.
Our First Responder program is an entirely different animal in comparison to our traditional safety initiatives. The First Responder program seeks to train people who work outside of our usual sphere of operations in the utility sector. And there’s a good reason for this. Firefighters and law enforcement personnel are often the first on the scene in car-versus-pole accidents, storm damage, structure fires and blowing gas. Utility emergency response workers are responsible to make the scene safe and take the first steps in making repairs, but what should police and firefighters do while waiting for utility personnel to arrive?
In a perfect world, all responders coordinate well together and services are restored in a timely manner. Well, we all know we don’t live in a perfect world. But the Local 1245 First Responder program aims to improve coordination by helping first responders understand what they should—and shouldn’t—do when confronted with an electrical or gas emergency.
There is a varying degree of knowledge in the first responder community about how the utility system works, what the inherent dangers are, and how to prevent a failure in the system from getting even worse. Talk to any electric troubleshooter or gas service representative and he or she will have their share of scary first responder stories. I can share one incident that happened to me personally.
As a troubleshooter, I came across a sheriff’s deputy who had wrapped his car around a primary pole. There were wires down over his car. Four firefighters were busily at work trying to extricate the deputy—with a burning 7200 volt primary wire in the bushes nearby. I called the power control center to drop the feeder and luckily they were able to comply in a timely manner. After the whole event was over I shook with fear at the thought of those four firefighters possibly getting electrocuted while performing their job. Were these men stupid, or possibly unconcerned about the potential danger? No, their only fault was that they were untrained and unaware of the risk.
Business Manager Tom Dalzell and the union’s Executive Board recognize that IBEW Local 1245 members are an essential part of a much larger first responder community. Being part of that community carries an important responsibility. We can share essential knowledge that will not only improve the safety of other first responders, but the safety of Local 1245 members as well. After all, when police and firefighters make the right decisions before IBEW members arrive on the scene, it reduces the risks for all.
One may ask why utility companies don’t offer this training. Well, some do, but most don’t. Budget constraints and manpower limitations are always an issue. Offering safety training, especially to outside agencies, is a hard sell.
Still a harder sell in today’s political climate is the view that unions have something to contribute to the community as a whole. Unions are frequently criticized for their lack of relevance in today’s world. But here’s something for the public at large to consider: unions like IBEW Local 1245 have something important to offer—not only to our members but to society as a whole. Our First Responder program is a visible indication of Local 1245’s relevance, and our willingness to find new ways to give back to the communities that our members live in and serve.