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Don’t Let Unsafe Actions Make Waves in Summer Fun

Lake Safety


SafeElectricity.org shares tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe when enjoying water recreation activities this summer.

  Be sure to check weather forecasts. Postpone your plans if a thunderstorm is expected, as the risks for lightning strikes are especially high in or near bodies of water. Remember the advice from the National Weather Service (NWS), “When thunder roars, go indoors.”  

You are not safe from lightning strikes while outside, so once you hear thunder, get to a safe shelter such as an enclosed building with electricity or plumbing or an enclosed metal-topped vehicle with its windows up. Wait until at least 30 minutes have passed without thunder to return outside.

Be aware of your surroundings. Always check the location of nearby power lines before boating or fishing. Make sure you are casting the line away from power lines to avoid potential contact. 

Do not raise a mast or antenna when your boat is near a power line. Never attempt to move a power line out of the way so that a boat can pass underneath. Maintain a safe distance of at least 10 feet between your boat and nearby power lines. Keep in mind that water levels are constantly changing, altering the distance between the water and the line. 

If your boat does come in contact with a power line, do not enter the water. The water could be energized. Instead, stay in the boat and avoid touching anything metal until help arrives or until your boat is no longer in contact with the line. 

Do not swim around docks with electrical equipment or boats plugged into shore power. If you are in the water and feel a tingle of electric current, shout to let others know, try to stay upright, tuck your legs up to make yourself smaller, and swim away from anything that could be energized. Do not head to boat or dock ladders to get out.

If you see someone who you suspect is getting shocked, do not immediately jump in to save them.  Throw them a float, turn off the shore power connection at the meter base, and/or unplug shore power cords. Try to eliminate the source of electricity as quickly as possible; then call for help.

To help prevent the risk of electricity entering the water, have your boat and dock electrical systems regularly inspected and maintained by a professional familiar with marine electrical codes. 

To learn more about electrical safety, please visit SafeElectricity.org.



 Planning, Planting, and Pruning

 tree
          Trees can bring beauty and shade to your yard, but if proper care and planning are not considered, they can also present a potential electrical hazard. Safe Electricity shares tips to help you avoid such dangers through needed pruning and planting trees in locations where they will not grow into overhead power lines.

Water, sap, and chemicals in trees make them able to conduct electricity. Be sure that no one climbs a tree near power lines. If branches are touching the wires, the tree could be energized. Even branches not touching power lines could become energized if a child’s weight is added.

Severe weather can cause tree limbs to fall. If the trees are located near overhead power lines, they can damage the electrical wires that provide you and your neighbors with power, resulting in downed lines and power outages.

“When trees grow into or near power lines, they pose a threat to safety and to the reliability of your electrical service. Pruning is an important and necessary step in helping prevent these issues,” explains Molly Hall, executive director of the Energy Education Council and its Safe Electricity program. 

 Trimming trees near power lines is a dangerous job and best left to professionals. As reported by Lehigh Valley Live in October 2016, a New Jersey man lost his life when he made contact with a power line while cutting down a tree. Before the accident, he was aware of the wire, but he slipped, touching the line with a gas-powered saw. He was pronounced dead on the scene.

        In order to help maintain safety and electrical service reliability, your utility may either prune trees that are too close to power lines or will contact a tree trimming service to do so. Although simply trimming a tree is usually enough, some trees that are at risk of damaging power lines during severe weather—like dead or dying trees or those with a shallow root system—may need removed completely.

If you live in an area where there is a risk of wildfire, keep in mind that it is recommend that you create a defensible space around the perimeter of your home to slow or stop the spread of a fire. Within 30 feet from your home and structure, trim trees to a minimum of 10 feet from other trees and remove branches that hang over the roof. 

When planting new trees, take care to plan for safety. Pick the right types of trees to plant in the right locations where they will not grow to be a problem with overhead power lines. It is also important to consider the location of underground lines. Remember to call 811 to have buried utilities marked so that you can safely dig around them.

        Make sure you know the expected mature height and width of the tree. Plant tall growing trees with a mature height of greater than 40 feet at least 50 feet away from lines to avoid future pruning. A mature height of less than 15 feet is recommended if planting near lines. Keep in mind, trees should never be planted directly under power lines, near poles, or too close to electrical equipment.

For more information on electrical safety, visit SafeElectricity.org.



Is Your Emergency Preparedness Kit Up to Date?
an expert from the Love County Senior Program "Busy Senior News"

STILLWATER, Okla. – Oklahoma families are strongly encouraged to prepare ahead of any potential natural disaster or possible crisis by setting aside some food and basic supplies as part of an emergency kit. But, in order for these kits to be truly effective, they do require a bit of light annual maintenance. 

    “Emergency kits should be refreshed at least once, but preferably twice, a year. If you’ve had any new additions to your family or perhaps you’ve added a pet, this is a great chance to update your kit so they’re included,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist. “One easy way to remember to check your kit is to do so every spring and fall when Daylight Savings Time begins and ends.”

    Recycling the food and water in the kit on a regular basis reduces the chances of those provisions going to waste, said Barbara Brown, OSU Cooperative Extension food safety specialist.  “If you’re properly maintaining your kit, you probably won’t have to throw away any food,” Brown said. “Check the expiration dates on all the food and beverages. Items close to expiration should be incorporated into the current food supply and eaten. Nearly expired foods should be replaced with items with at least a 6-month expiration date. Remember that the dates are generally guidelines for best quality, not a sign the food is unsafe to eat.”

    Items with no expiration date or if the date is written in code, mark when the food was placed in the kit or the date by which the food should be removed. The same method should be used each time the kit is updated.  Without an expiration date, consider that the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates high-acid canned items such as tomatoes, grapefruit and pineapple can be stored for a year to 18 months for best quality. Foods with less acid such as canned meat, poultry, fish and most vegetables can last 2 to 5 years if properly stored. 
The water stored in the kit should be replenished every 6 months. 

    Make sure clothing items are appropriate either for the colder temperatures in the fall and winter or in the warmer weather in the spring and summer, said Randi McCann, Love County OSU Extension FCS/4-H Youth Development.  Families also should replace any supplies that were used or borrowed from the kit and test flashlights and weather radios to confirm they are in working order.  “Don’t forget to check the kit to ensure there are provisions for family members with special needs such as infants as well as any pets,” McCann said.  



Easy Steps To Greater Efficiency
   by Anne Prince
caulking outside window

    Do you want to save money and electricity but have limited time, money and patience? According to the Department of Energy, a “typical American family” spends nearly $2,000 per year on their home energy bills. Much of that money, however, is wasted through leaky windows or ducts, old appliances or inefficient heating and cooling systems. 
Luckily, there are several relatively easy ways to save energy without a substantial commitment of time and money. These efforts will help you save whether you own or rent an older or newly constructed home. And, you won’t have to hire a specialist or call in a favor from someone who is handy with tools to help you. 

Where To Start
    According to Money Magazine, “improving the envelope” of your home is a good place to start. Sunlight, seasonal temperature changes and wind vibrations can loosen up even a tight home, increasing air leakage. Doors and windows may not close tightly, and duct work can spring leaks, wasting cooled and heated air. By placing weather stripping and caulk around windows and doors, you can keep cool air inside during warm months and prevent chilly air from penetrating the indoors during colder months. Sealing gaps around piping, dryer vents, fans and outlets also helps to seal the envelope and creates greater efficiency. Apply weather stripping around overlooked spaces like your attic hatch or pull-down stairs.
    
    Replacing incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs can make a big difference in home efficiency and is one of the fastest ways to cut your energy bill. Known for their longevity and efficiency, LED bulbs have an estimated operational life span of typically 10,000 to 20,000 hours compared to 1,000 hours of a typical incandescent. According to the Dept. of Energy, by replacing your home's five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with models that have earned the ENERGY STAR rating, you can save $75 each year. 

Wrapping Up Savings
    If your water heater is in an unconditioned location, installing a blanket around your water heater could reduce standby heat losses by 25 to 45 percent and save you about 7 to 16 percent in water heating costs, according to the Dept. of Energy. For a small investment of about $50, you can purchase pre-cut jackets or blankets and install them in about one hour. On a safety note, the Dept. of Energy recommends that you not set the thermostat above 130 degrees Fahrenheit on an electric water heater with an insulating jacket or blanket; the higher temperature setting could cause the wiring to overheat. 
   
    Given that a large portion of your monthly energy bill goes toward heating and cooling your home, it makes sense to ensure your home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is performing at an optimal level. Checking, changing or cleaning your filter extends the life of your HVAC system and saves you money. 
   
     Air filters prevent dust and allergens from clogging your HVAC system. Otherwise, dust and dirt trapped in a system’s air filter leads to several problems, including: reduced air flow in the home and up to 15 percent higher operating costs; lowered system efficiency; and costly duct cleaning or replacement. Many HVAC professionals recommend cleaning the system filters monthly. A simple task like changing the filters on your HVAC system makes your unit run more efficiently, keeping your house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
Take control of your energy savings
    
    Take a look at your programmable thermostat. When was the last time you checked to make sure it was programmed for the current season and family schedule? This is one of the best energy-saving tools at your fingertips. It enables you to fine tune the temperature during particular hours of the day. Many models allow you to differentiate between weekday and weekend schedules, and internet-connected thermostats can learn your schedule and make adjustments automatically. Most models come with an override option so you can make manual adjustments without losing overall programming. You can only achieve these efficiencies and savings if it is programmed properly and adjusted periodically to keep pace with changes in household routines. 
    Remember, there are easy steps you can take now to improve the energy efficiency of your home. To learn about additional ways to save, or to schedule a Home Energy Audit contact KorDale Lornes in our Member Services Department at 580-276-3364.



Outage Maps Keep Co-op Members Informed When The Lights Go Out
By Tom Tate

Outage Map Image

    Co-ops across the country are using a powerful tool to aid in power restoration and keep you informed during an outage. Outage maps are just what they sound like: a graphical representation of an outage displayed on a map of your electric co-op’s service area. The typical map will show where the outage is occurring and, depending upon the system’s capability, include information such as the number of members without power.

    Behind the map is a sophisticated system that provides the data needed to populate the graphic. I consider this technology to be part of the Smart Grid because it does what the Smart Grid is supposed to do: improve control, reduce outage length, increase reliability and provide better information to employees, co-op members and the public.

    Maintaining an accurate outage map starts with the devices on the co-op’s lines that can report their status to the cooperative. These include a growing number of switches and individual meters. By “report their status,” I mean they can report if they have been tripped or if there is power at the meter. This data flows back over the power lines to a computer at the co-op. There it is analyzed, and the results are presented to the engineering and operations folks for action.
   
    Let’s set up an example. Something causes a fault in the lines that blows a fuse or trips a circuit breaker. The cause could be a gust of wind dropping a branch on a line. Or a furry critter deciding the brush around the transformer looks like dinner. A car hitting a pole. Regardless of the cause, the power is now out to a number of members.
The piece of equipment nearest the fault signals that it cannot see anything down the line or that it has tripped. A program now runs to determine the extent of the outage. It looks at other devices to determine where the flow of power stops. Once it has completed its detective work, a map is generated showing the extent of the outage. Of course, co-op employees can operate the program rather than waiting for the computer.

    Because of the power of the information contained in these maps, co-ops are making them available online. Members can use the map rather than wait in a telephone queue to speak to a customer service representative about their power outage. They can check to see if their power is out, back on or if crews are assigned to the outage – all with the click of a button!
    
    Many people have asked over the years how they can access the Internet if their power is out. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first is via your smart phone or cell-enabled tablet. Another is to ask a friend or family member who has power to check for you. Or head to a place with power and PCs, like a library or Internet café. The point being there are many ways you can access this information during an outage and keep yourself informed on the status.

    Knowledge is power, and when it comes to outages, knowledge is also a comfort because it can tell you when the lights are coming back on. With this knowledge, you can take any steps necessary to protect your family and your property. Outage maps are a great example of how co-ops work to keep their members informed about their service.

    Red River Valley provides outage information as part of our ongoing efforts to provide the highest quality of service at the lowest possible cost. This is just another benefit of being a co-op member. 


Co-op lines: single or double?
by Tom Tate  
Road Side 3 Phase Line Picture


    Living on Red River Valley’s lines is a literal expression, meaning you have a system of poles and wires connecting your home or business to the co-op so you can get power when and where you need it. While these systems of poles and wires all look quite similar, there are distinct differences. Let’s take a look at those differences and why they are important. 

Caution: Utility terms ahead!

    Everything starts at the substation when it comes to co-op distribution systems. Transmission lines feed high voltage into the substation, where it is reduced to a more manageable and safer level. On the other side of these transformers, distribution feeder lines carry the power out and into the service area, where they “feed” power to a sizeable block of co-op members. This is an efficient way to move a large amount of power closer to its point of use. These are also what are termed radial feeds, meaning only one end is connected to a power source. 

    At certain points along the feeders, lateral lines branch out to connect member loads, which are the amounts of power a home or business needs. Systems are designed to supply the amount of load to which they are connected. If you look at a simple map of REA’s distribution system, it resembles the veins and arteries of the human body. Only in this case, it carries life-enhancing electricity instead of life-sustaining blood. These lateral lines are also radial in many cases. Eventually, the last member is reached and the system goes no further.

    Lateral lines are the “single” lines referenced in the title of this article. When co-op distribution systems were first built, the most cost effective solution in a lot of cases was the lateral approach. This was especially true for far-flung, end-of-line members. There is one drawback to a lateral or single line approach, however. When there is a fault (something causing the flow of electricity to stop, like a tree on the lines or a pole being broken by a car) in the system, every member beyond that point loses power until the problem is located and corrected. 

    Enter the double line approach. A normal evolution in distribution system growth is to replace radial lines with loop connections. The loop is connected to a power source at two ends rather than one. This power source can be another substation or another feeder from the same substation. With this approach, when power is interrupted, we have the opportunity to rapidly restore power to a large portion of the affected members.

    Here is how the loop works. Let’s say a tree branch breaks and falls onto the wires. Equipment on the lines senses the fault and operates protective devices immediately in front of the fault, just like circuit breakers do in your own home. No power flows beyond the protective device, and all members beyond this point lose power. 

    Back at the co-op, the system has alerted operators of the problem or members have started calling about the power outage. “Our crews are sent to the area to find and fix the problem” says Engineering Technician Ky Frazier.  “If the line is a single, radial feed, power for everyone is out until the problem is corrected. But, if a loop feed is in place, crews in the field can open switches to isolate the fault and reroute power.” This means faster power restoration for many members. The purpose of the loop feed or double line approach is exactly this, restoring power to members faster than where a single line is in place.  Red River Valley REA maintains 2,700 miles of line, bringing power to over 15,000 accounts.

In the event of a power outage, please give us a call at (580)-276-3364.



Storm Safety: When Thunderstorms and Tornadoes Strike
Bucket Truck in a Storm Picture

Beware. Spring can usher in more than April showers. Now through the summer months, thunderstorms can quickly roll in and tornadoes can touch down, often during the afternoon and evening hours.
Follow these tips to keep you and your home safe when tornadoes and severe thunderstorms come your way.
• Prepare for high winds by removing diseased and damaged tree limbs.
• Listen to local news or National Weather Service broadcasts to stay informed about tornado watches and warnings.
• If in a mobile home, immediately head to a sturdy shelter or vehicle. Mobile homes, especially hallways and bathrooms, 
are not safe places to take shelter during tornadoes or other severe winds.
• Designate a family meeting place for shelter during and after a storm. If possible, go to your home’s basement, a small interior room, 
or under stairs on the lowest level. Also, have a battery-operated weather radio handy along with emergency supplies such as water, 
non-perishable foods, flashlights, a first aid kit and extra batteries.
• Unplug your electronics. Avoid using electrical equipment and corded telephones.
• Remember that there is no safe place outside during a severe storm. If you are caught in a storm while on the road,
the American Red Cross urges drivers to turn their headlights on, try to safely exit the roadway, and park. Stay in the vehicle
with your seat belt on and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. If thunder and lightning is occurring, 
avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.
• Move or secure lawn furniture, trash cans, hanging plants or anything else that can be picked up by the wind and become a projectile.
• Stay safe after a storm. Remain indoors at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder. ALWAYS, stay away from downed power lines
and avoid flooded areas, power lines could be submerged and still live with electricity. Report them to REA immediately.

Learn more about storm safety at http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/education/svrwx101/thunderstorms/





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