Category Archives: Safety

Putting safety first

75by75for75Mike Couick, President and CEO of The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, focused his contribution to the June 2014 edition of South Carolina Living magazine on the safety success of co-ops in South Carolina.

The lineworkers who keep your electric cooperative humming 24 hours a day, seven days a week are special breed.

On good days, they face the risk of serious injury and even death from energized power lines, heavy equipment and careless motorists. On bad days, such as those following major storms, they also battle the elements and the fatigue of extended shifts as crews work round-the-clock to restore electric service to co-op members.

Keeping lineworkers safe has been a priority for South Carolina’s electric co-ops since the first crews began stringing lines across rural South Carolina some 75 years ago. After all, your employees have never been a nameless, faceless workforce—they have always been your friends, neighbors and relatives. They are, in every sense of the word, family.

A little more than a year ago, we issued a challenge to our co-ops: To mark the 75th anniversary of cooperatives in South Carolina, could they reduce loss-time accidents among employees by 75 percent at 75 percent of our co-ops.

To say this goal was ambitious would be an understatement, but our co-ops all embraced this renewed emphasis on safety. One year later, I am pleased to report that as of May 1, 2014, we achieved our goal, reducing the number of loss-time accidents from 28 the previous year to just seven.

This unprecedented safety drive was spearheaded by Todd Carter, vice president of loss control and training at The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, but the credit for the results goes to every co-op employee who went the extra mile to ensure safer working conditions.

“Reducing the number of accidents by this magnitude tells us something important: Co-op employees committed themselves to this program 100 percent,” Carter says. “There’s no way we would have reached this goal unless every co-op made safety its top priority. This was a total team effort across the state.”

Prospects for a successful “75 by 75 for 75” campaign faced a serious obstacle in the immediate aftermath of February’s devastating winter storm. Some service areas endured historic damage, more than the destruction caused by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, and South Carolina co-op crews logged more than 500,000 work-hours in extremely dangerous conditions. Another 300,000 work-hours were logged by out‑of-state crews.

“To maintain the safety goal after one of the most destructive storms in a generation is amazing to me,” Carter says. “So many things can go wrong in those situations. The fact that the safety goal survived the storm is a testament to the dedication of our employees.”

While the year-long challenge period is up, the heightened culture of safety it inspired will continue among cooperatives as we work to maintain and improve 70,000 miles of distribution line running through all 46 counties of the state. Our mission has always been to provide affordable, reliable electricity to members, but as we’ve reminded ourselves during this campaign, the most important way we serve our communities is making sure our employees get home safe at the end of every workday.

Dialogue_MikeMugshot

Mike Couick, President and CEO, The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina

Dialogue – Mike Couick, President and CEO, The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina/Published June 2014/South Carolina Living magazine.

Patience on outdoor lighting repairs, please

drought_April_24_2013

The South Carolina State Climatology Office announced the official end of the drought in all South Carolina Counties on April 24, 2013.

There definitely is no shortage of water in Horry County these days.  The drought status for all counties in South Carolina, according to the South Carolina State Climatology Office, was declared officially over on April 24, 2013.  Horry County residents have seen their share of rain over the past few months. As a result, the ground is saturated.  “Those conditions make it difficult for us to make some routine repairs that normally are resolved very quickly,” says Reed Cooper, manager of engineering for Horry Electric.  “Power restoration is always a priority and we don’t let anything get in the way of that,” explains Cooper. “It’s the repairs to outdoor lighting that we’re experiencing delays.”  A lot of the outdoor lights installed on the Horry Electric system require two people and heavy equipment to make the repairs. “It’s not as simple as sending a service man out to make the repair,” says Cooper, adding that the location of the majority of the lights on the system also pose a problem. “When the ground is as wet as it is, we can’t get the truck in the yards or off of the edge of the roads to get to the light to make the repairs,” he says. “We don’t want to create a mess on someone’s property and there just isn’t an easy way to get our equipment in or out of an area where these lights are located without creating one.”  The equipment used to make repairs to outdoor lights weigh in excess of two tons.  “It’s easy enough to get something that heavy bogged down when it’s even just a bit wet,” says Cooper. “When the ground is as wet as it is now, there’s no doubt it will get bogged down and make a mess.” Members who make contact with the co-op to report outdoor lighting repairs are being asked for patience on response time. “We will definitely make all of the repairs, but please understand the heavy rain and the conditions it has created in our service area have put us behind schedule.”

Keeping an eye on TS Andrea

“Horry County went to OPCON 4 at 10 a.m. and all of us at Horry Electric are not only following the updates from the Horry County Emergency Management Department, but we’re also keeping a watchful eye on local, state and national weather reports related to  Tropical Storm Andrea,” says James P. “Pat” Howle, executive vice president and CEO of the cooperative. “There’s always a chance some of these storms could become major hurricanes and there’s always a possibility our members and communities will be impacted.”

An update distributed by Horry County EMD earlier today indicated the current forecast has Tropical Storm Andrea moving toward the South Carolina coast.  Horry County could expect winds at 45 MPH around day break Friday morning and rain totals for the next 48 hours could be 2-4 inches.

“Just as we urge our members to be prepared, we’re also ready at Horry Electric Cooperative,” says W.I. Jones, manager of operations for the cooperative.  “We have a detailed plan for dealing with the aftermath of a major storm and that includes keeping our members and the media informed throughout the restoration process.”

In 2012, Horry Electric took that commitment a step further and launched an online outage map to give members the ability to monitor outages using  any device with Internet access, including smart phones.

Members are asked to remember that, in the event of a major outage, they need to call PowerTouch, the cooperative’s automated power outage reporting system at 843.369.2212. “After, of course, you’ve checked fuses or circuit breakers in your home to make sure they aren’t the source of the problem,” says Jones.

Members are also asked to remember that the process of restoring power could take time. “We need their patience and understanding,” says Jones.

In the event of a major outage,  crews work around the clock until all power is restored.  “We start at the substations, work out way through the main feeder lines, then focus on the taps off of the main feeder lines and then individual service drops,” says Jones.

To make sure members are fully prepared and know what to expect when it comes to power outages, the cooperative provides information online at horryelectric.com.  “Our complete guide to power outages includes information on how PowerTouch, our automated Outage Reporting System works; repairs members need to make to restore servicesafety information for before, during and after a storm, as well as answers to some questions we often get asked during a power outage,” says Howle.

“All any of us can do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” says Howle.

Additional online materials provided by Horry Electric Cooperative to help members prepare:

Multi-day planned outage scheduled in Longs continues this week

conversion shotThe planned outage in the Longs area, which was scheduled for multiple days over the course of two weeks is going as organizers expected.

“Crews worked Tuesday through Thursday of last week and work will begin again tomorrow,  Tuesday, April 16,” says Mitchell Benton, distribution engineer for Horry Electric. “If things go as well as they did last week, we’ll be completely finished by Wednesday afternoon.”

The project is conversion of a specific area on the Horry Electric system from an operating voltage of 7.2 kV to a higher operating voltage of 14.4 kV. The upgrade is necessary to be able to keep up with the energy demand from members.

Members who will be affected  by Part 6 of the project were first notified by phone last night and will be reminded this evening with a follow-up phone call.  “We’ll be working on the conversion from 9 a.m. until about 2 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, April 16,” says Benton.

Part 7 of the project has been scheduled for Wednesday, April 17 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.  This is the final part of the project and members who will be affected will get a phone call tonight and a reminder call Tuesday evening.

Scheduling a planned outage can be challenging. “We know there isn’t ever going to be a convenient time for everyone, so we try to find a time that will be the least inconvenient,” says Benton. Planned outages are rarely scheduled on Mondays or Fridays. “We also try to avoid holidays; times of the year when traffic will be bad or the weather will be too severe for members to manage being without power for an extended period,” he says, adding that those considerations doesn’t leave a lot of options for the cooperative and its crews.

Notification to members about planned outages  is a priority for the cooperative and its employees do not take lightly. ”An unexpected outage is one thing,” says Benton. “An outage planned in advance is another.” When notifying members of a planned outage that has been scheduled, the Cooperative always expresses appreciation in advance for the patience and understanding of its members who will be impacted. “We truly regret any inconvenience the interruption in service might cause, but we want them to be assured that it will greatly improve the quality of their electric service.”

What’s a planned outage?

playitsafearoundelectricity

Providing the best possible service to members is a priority at Horry Electric Cooperative, Inc. “From time-to-time, this means scheduling a power outage so crews can safely work on system upgrades and maintenance,” says Mitchell Benton, distribution engineer for the cooperative.

Maintenance is necessary to keep a steady flow of safe, reliable electric power running throughout the Horry Electric system. “System upgrades are necessary to keep ahead of the load demand of our members,” says Benton. Continuous and careful monitoring of the Horry Electric system helps engineers plan and predict, well in advance of any problems, when upgrades should be made.

Advance planning works to the advantage of Horry Electric’s members. “It helps us be proactive and not reactive,” says Benton. “If we waited until the system continually failed to upgrade equipment, we’d have frequent outages and some very unhappy members.”

Great care is taken when planning and scheduling an outage for maintenance and system upgrades. “Just like we do when restoring power after a major storm, we begin by upgrading the equipment at the substation,” says Benton. “Then we work our way out from there.”

A lot of the work and planning can be done with little or no impact to members. “But, then we get to a point in the project where we have to take a section of our system off line in order for the crews to safely and quickly replace or upgrade equipment.”

The duration of each individual planned and scheduled outage depends on the amount of equipment that has to be replaced or upgraded. Some are fairly easy and the work can be completed in as little as an hour. Others may require as much as five hours.

“We try hard to let affected members know when a planned outage is scheduled,” says Benton. “Notification is usually made by telephone directly to members who will be impacted by the planned outage.” Notification includes the date and time the work will be done; the location in which the work will be done; what kind of work is being done and the expected total length of time of the outage.

Having updated contact information in the system is critical to keeping members informed about electric service. “We are always asking members to verify we have the correct information for our outage reporting system,” says Benton. “It’s the same system we use to make outgoing calls to members to let them know about planned outages.”

Planned outage scheduled next month in the Longs area

Horry Electric has planned an outage in the Longs area for a project that will impact a total of 4,000 members and take about five days to complete. “It is scheduled for Tuesday, April 9 through Thursday, April 11 and then from Tuesday, April 16 through Wednesday, April 17,” says Benton. “We’ll be converting to a higher operating voltage  in that part of our system from 7.2 kV to 14.4 kV.” The upgrade is necessary to be able to keep up with the energy demand from members.

Not all 4,000 members will be out every day of the time scheduled for the outage. “We’ve organized the job by line sections and will do one section one day and then another section the next day,” says Benton. “Members will be advised what days to expect to be affected and for how long.” In the case of this type of system upgrade, Horry Electric will caution members that outages could be as long as five hours.

Scheduling a planned outage can be challenging. “We know there isn’t ever going to be a convenient time for everyone, so we try to find a time that will be the least inconvenient,” says Benton. Planned outages are rarely scheduled on Mondays or Fridays. “We also try to avoid holidays; times of the year when traffic will be bad or the weather will be too severe for members to manage being without power for an extended period,” he says, adding that those considerations doesn’t leave a lot of options for the cooperative and its crews.

Notification by phone to the members in the Longs area will be made two weeks before the planned outage. A reminder phone call will be made the day before the work is scheduled to begin. “Because our records show we’re missing an awful lot of phone numbers in this particular area, we’re going to also do a notification by mail,” says Benton. “We had to make a lot of plans for the outage and we respect the fact our members will also need to make plans and work their personal and family schedules around the dates and times they’ll be without power.”

Notification to members about planned outages on the schedule is a priority for the cooperative and its employees do not take lightly.  “An unexpected outage is one thing,” says Benton. “An outage planned in advance is another.” When notifying members of a planned outage that has been scheduled, the Cooperative always expresses appreciation in advance for the patience and understanding of its members who will be impacted. “We truly regret any inconvenience the interruption in service might cause, but we want them to be assured that it will greatly improve the quality of their electric service.”

Looking out for you and your safety

LOFYLogoGreenTextTogether with several of their sister cooperatives in South Carolina, Horry Electric has collaborated on and created four different safety public service messages on which to focus in the coming months.

The topics are digging, storms, outlets and power lines.

At Horry Electric, safety is a priority. “We want members to always remember to play it safe around electricity,” says Brian Chestnut, safety coördinator for Horry Electric Cooperative. Public service messages about safety are often posted on horryelectric.com, through the blog, on Facebook and via Twitter.

Safety links found on horryelectric.com include

HEC Digging Safety 8 375x10 875HEC Storm Safety 8 375x10 875HEC Outlet Safety 8 375x10 875HEC Power line Safety 8 375x10 875

May is Electrical Safety Month!

We observe Electrical Safety Month – for you!

James P. “Pat” Howle, Executive Vice President and CEO

Every May, we celebrate Electrical Safety Month. It’s a time when we place a spotlight on ways we keep you, our members, safe.

This year, we’re focusing on how to keep safe after a storm rolls through.

No matter the type of weather or damage to electrical equipment and infrastructure, resulting safety hazards are generally the same.

To stay safe after a major storm or natural disaster strikes, Horry Electric Cooperative urges you to develop a family action plan. Designate a place for everyone to meet after an event. Map out ways to evacuate your home. Create a laminated card with emergency contact names and numbers for each family member. Consider listing a relative or friend who lives far from your community as the point of contact—if your family gets separated, that person can let others know who is safe.

Don’t forget pets in your family action plan—many rescue shelters will not accept pets after a catastrophe of some sort, so it’s important to decide beforehand where Spot or Tiger can take up residence for a while.

It’s not hard to understand why safety remains a top priority for Horry Electric. Working around electricity is a life-or-death situation every day for many of our employees. As a result, we work hard to instill a culture of safety that our folks can take home with them and live 24/7.

We also strive to raise safety awareness among Horry Electric Cooperative members. That’s why we offer safety demonstrations for schools and community groups. We also provide safety tips in South Carolina Living, on horryelectric.com and in a variety of other printed materials.

Pledge to honor Electrical Safety Month by fashioning an emergency action plan for your family today.

Learn more about weathering storms safely at ready.gov and at horryelectric.com.

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