By Ginger Meurer
AMARGOSA VALLEY, Nev. – Not all guests at Amargosa Elementary School light up the room like Neon Leon and Lightning Liz.
The safety demonstration dolls recently helped Valley Electric Association’s Amargosa Valley Area Foreman Aaron Lynn and his assistant Christopher Brown teach Lisa Langlois’ fifth-grade class about the power and danger of electricity.
Wearing thick rubber gloves, Christopher guided Leon and Liz through a series of sizzling hazards on a banquet table-size city street stage as Aaron explained the nature of electricity.
“Under normal circumstances you can’t hear it, see it, touch it, smell it. That’s what makes it so dangerous,” he said.
Students let out wows when Aaron told them electricity travels 186,000 miles per hour, quick enough to travel around the Earth seven and a half times in a second.
“That’s how fast electricity is, if you turn on that light switch, it’s instant, right?”
And it can be deadly.
“It takes less than one-tenth of an amp to stop your heart,” Aaron said. “How many amps are in your household outlet? There’s 15 to 20. So that’s all around you every day as you’re plugging in your cell phones and laptops and turning on the
Each spring VEA lineman connect with students across the VEA service area to emphasize safety.
lights in the bathroom, plugging in your hair dryer or your TV or X-Box. All that stuff has the ability to kill you. It’s dangerous. That’s why we don’t play with it.”
Aaron explained that electricity will take the easiest path to get to the ground, even if that path is through a person. He instructed students to avoid obvious risks like touching exposed wires or wires blown down in wind storms. Less obvious was the risk of being electrocuted after a car accident. When drivers run into a power pole, and the line comes into contact with the vehicle, Aaron said to stay in the car unless it’s on fire.
“The vehicle is sitting on rubber tires, and as soon as you step out and touch the ground, you create a path to ground.”
If the vehicle is on fire, Aaron said there’s only one way to get out, and that’s rabbit-style.
“You’ve got to jump out, both feet together. That way when you leave the vehicle you touch the ground. Then you have to bunny hop away.”
The hopping limits contact with the ground, which is important if the electricity leaps from the vehicle to you on its way to the ground.
Each spring, VEA linemen go into fifth-grade classrooms across the VEA service territory to teach safety to students.
“We also have wires underground,” Aaron said. “They’re buried. You can’t see them. You don’t know where they’re at. So if you’re in the yard, digging a fence post hole or digging a hole for your tetherball pole, and you dig into a power line, if you’re touching the ground and your shovel touches a power line…” “Wow, that’s awesome,” kids said as Leon sparked up.
Foreman Aaron Lynn explains how powerful electricity can be.“Did you see him light up?” Aaron asked. “That’s high voltage.”
“We put those there for a reason,” he said adding that he sees kids ignoring warnings and sitting on them in the park as they watch friends play basketball.
“You’ve done that for the last time, haven’t you? Why? Inside that is how many volts, 25,000. So if one of those little tiny ground wires breaks, and it’s no longer grounded, what happens when you sit on it? If you’re touching the ground, and you reach over and touch that green box, electricity is going to go through your body to ground.”
Neon Leon and Lightning Liz.“Any of you guys fly kites?” he asked. “We have plenty of wind out here. Do you fly kites near power lines? What happens if the kite gets away from you and goes into the power line? Let it go.” Leon was not so smart.
“Look at him, all that from a kite string, guys. We’re not trying to scare you. We’re just trying to make you cautious around electricity. Electricity serves a wonderful purpose. We use it every day in our lives, don’t we? You have electricity in your homes. You have DC electricity in your cars. You’re never without it. Electricity is everywhere.”
But what if it wasn’t, fifth-grader Johnny Alger asked.
“What happens if all off the sudden all of the electricity would just go out, and there was no more electricity?” he said. “How do you think everyone would react to it because electricity, everyone depends on it?”
“We do depend on it,” Aaron answered. “This isn’t the 1950s. We have to have it. We rely on it for everything. If the electricity goes out Chris Brown is going to fix it.”
“What if there is no way of fixing it?” Johnny asked.
“I don’t think that would be acceptable,” Aaron answered. “I think we’d find a way to fix it. But that would cause some chaos wouldn’t it. We’d be burning some candles.”
About Valley Electric Association, Inc.
Valley Electric Association, Inc. (VEA) is a member-owned nonprofit electric utility headquartered in Pahrump, Nev. While VEA started as a small rural electric utility in 1965, the company now provides electric service to more than 45,000 people within a vast 6,800-square-mile service area located primarily along the California-Nevada border, with the majority in Nevada. Valley Communications Association (VCA), a wholly owned subsidiary of VEA, began proving high-speed communications to our member-owners in the spring of 2016. VEA’s service area starts in Sandy Valley, southwest of Las Vegas, and extends north for more than 250 miles to Fish Lake Valley. For more information about VEA, please visit www.vea.coop.
Aaron pointed out a potential hazard many kids don’t consider, power boxes. Stickers warn, “Danger! High voltage. Keep Out.”