There’s nothing better than Seattle in the summertime. But with temperatures approaching 80 degrees this Fourth of July, you may be looking for ways to beat the heat. Here are a few tips from the U.S. Department of Energy* on how to keep cool and conserve energy without breaking the bank! Check out this month’s issue of Light Reading for more innovative ways to conserve energy this summer from planting a tree to using your slow cooker. Click here to take a look!
At an event and demonstration today with the Seattle Fire Department and Seattle City Light, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced the first-in-the-nation partnership today between Seattle City Light and the Seattle Fire Department to more effectively fight fires in underground electrical vaults.
“Seattle has always been at the leading edge, and thanks to this innovative partnership, Seattle is now at the leading edge of fighting fires that are a danger to the public, our infrastructure, and our economy,” said Mayor Durkan during a demonstration of the new approach at City Light’s North Service Center. “This is the kind of collaboration and innovation we need as we work to deliver essential services, protect the public, and provide reliable electricity that powers Seattle. I am grateful to the men and women of the Seattle Fire Department and Seattle City Light who have made this vision for partnership a reality and who put themselves in harm’s way to limit the impact of these dangerous fires.”
The event included members of the Vault Response Team, which is comprised of specially trained Seattle Firefighters as well as executive members from both departments and other advocates of this partnership.
Last month, SFD Chief Harold Scoggins and City Light Interim General Manager and CEO Jim Baggs reached an agreement to solidify the partnership between the two departments and the Vault Response Team. The 48 members of the Vault Response Team will be continually trained to safely address the public safety needs resulting from network vault fire incidents. City Light will provide specialized supplies and equipment to treat these fires along with updated intel on City Light’s network maps.
Fire Chief Harold Scoggins praised the partnership for its innovation and what it means for other departments across the country.
“Vault fires create dangerous situations in confined spaces. Before this team was created, standard procedure was to keep the area clear and wait for the fire to burn itself out. This partnership, which takes an offensive approach, is a major advancement in our field and is an example that other energy providers and fire departments want to learn from. We are proud and thankful to have this vital resource here in Seattle.”
Electrical vault fires can be caused by something as simple as a cigarette butt landing on a pile of dried leaves or as critical as an arc flash created during maintenance. Their impact is costly and can be dangerous to the public and the firefighters extinguishing them. Within an instant, the pressure of a vault fire can launch a 300-pound utility cover up to three stories. To further complicate matters, these fires may cause large-scale power outages.
The fire department and City Light are deploying a new technology that can effectively and efficiently extinguish vault fires. With a financial contribution from City Light, the fire department revived an older truck that was scheduled for decommission to address these kinds of fires.
Armed with carbon dioxide canisters, Seattle firefighters can now remove the utility hole cover, insert a metal wand and inject the vault with carbon dioxide while covering the opening with a fire-resistant tarp. This removes the oxygen from the area, snuffing the fire by robbing it of oxygen. It is an offensive approach that keeps the fire from spreading throughout the entire vault system. Once the fire is out and the vault is cleared of smoke and carbon dioxide, City Light can de-energize electrical equipment, making the area safe for crews to begin repairs.
“This partnership enhances the safety of our both departments’ employees. We are exchanging information on safety practices and institutional knowledge while training together to ensure that these fires are extinguished safely and efficiently,” Baggs said. “Not only will this process reduce the amount of damage from these fires, but it can also greatly reduce the repair and outage time. This partnership is an insurance policy for our customers, the economic drivers in Seattle’s business core and for the public servants who address these fires.”
This technology reduces the potentially disastrous effect of these kinds of fires. While this method is crucial, the partnership between the fire department and City Light is the key ingredient to ensure its success. For Seattle Fire Captain Chris Greene, the technology behind extinguishing these fires is only one piece of a much larger puzzle.
“There are a variety of great products available to handle high-voltage emergencies, but without a partnership, fire departments and utilities are missing a key component,” explains Greene. “CO2 and other chemical extinguishers are in fact effective, but it’s an engineered solution to a problem that can have significant impacts. The true solution is a foundational relationship with the energy provider like City Light that builds long before a fire begins.”
For our last installment of National Electrical Safety Month, we would like to share a little bit about City Light’s own focus on safety and how it has evolved over the years. In 2010 and 2015, City Light experienced multiple safety incidents involving employees and the community. These incidents created a wake-up call within the utility, leading to actions built on innovation, agency, and listening. Last month, City Light’s dedication to improving its safety culture was the cover story in Northwest Public Power Association’s Bulletin magazine.
Some would say that spring is simply the most delightful time of the year here in Seattle (and frankly, it’s hard to disagree!). As trees and shrubs begin to blossom, it may be tempting to go outside and start trimming. Before you break out the shears, there are a few safety tips to keep in mind. We reached out to City Light’s arboriculturist and resident tree buff Heidi Narte for tips on how to keep your pines, maples and family safe around power lines.
Here are a few of Heidi’s handy safety tips:
- Keep kids safe – make sure their play activities don’t include trees near power lines. Trees touching power lines may become energized, causing a dangerous situation for kids climbing in them, swinging in them or otherwise playing in them.
- Heading out into your yard to prune trees and shrubs? Make sure you, your tools and the branches you want to prune are a safe distance from power lines. If the branches you’re pruning or your tools make contact with a power line, you could receive an electrical shock injury which can result in significant burns or even death. Branches, tools and you should be at least 10 feet from distribution power lines and 21 feet from high voltage transmission lines.
- See a tree or branch touching a power line? Trees touching power lines may be energized and safety hazards. If you’re not sure whether a tree could cause an issue, give us a call and we’ll check it out!
If you have questions about power lines near trees, email SCLVegetation@seattle.gov or call (206) 386-1733 to check in with an arborist. For more information on how to keep your trees safe around power lines, check out the latest issue of Light Reading!
Faulty wiring in and around your home can have dangerous consequences. When it comes into contact with water, it can become deadly. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (EFSI), Electric Shock Drowning occurs when faulty wiring sends an electric current into the water. If someone is in the water, like inside a swimming pool, the current passes through the body, causing paralysis which could lead to drowning.
Here are a few tips on how to avoid electric shock drowning:
- Locate and label all power switches to the pool, hot tub, spa equipment & lighting
- Keep pools, hot tubs & spas 25 feet away from power lines
- Hire a qualified electrician for wiring and repair work as well as annual inspections
- Install Ground Fault Circuit Interpreters (commonly known as GFCI switches) on receptacles within 20 feet of water’s edge
EFSI recommends that if you see someone affected by Electric Shock Drowning, turn off the power sources and call 911. Do not enter the water.
Imagine this scenario: You’re driving in your neighborhood and BAM! another car crashes into a utility pole. In an instant, the pole crashes onto your vehicle.
What would you do?
Now, it may seem like an unlikely scenario, but it can happen. In fact, it happened to a teenager in Ohio last month (click here to watch their amazing story!) Odds are, you may not be sure what to do if you see a downed wire on the ground. Thankfully, we have a few tips for you.
Tip: If you find yourself near a downed power line, don’t walk or run…SHUFFLE! Keep your feet together and move at least 20 feet away. If a downed power line falls on your car, stay inside and call 911. Check out the video below featuring City Light’s own Ed Hill from Seattle Channel’s City Stream for a demonstration of how to do the Downed Wire Shuffle.
Never touch or approach a downed wire or anything in contact with the wire.
City Light’s Skagit Hydroelectric Project provides clean and efficient energy to Seattle’s customers, and its idyllic location provides spectacular, Instagram-worthy views of the North Cascades and Diablo Lake. Being nestled in such a remote location does have its advantages, but it can also provide its share of challenges when minutes count. During an emergency—whether someone has a bump or bruise during a dam tour or is involved in a serious traffic accident on the North Cascades Highway—a team of City Light employees take action, changing from their daily roles at the utility to act as members of the Newhalem-Diablo Fire Brigade.
For almost 60 years, this mostly volunteer group of first responders has gone above and beyond their assigned work duties at City Light to safeguard the residents and property of City Light, the Skagit Project and the North Cascades National Park. Fire Brigade Chief Cody Watson explains “the brigade fights fires and provides an emergency response like a typical fire department would; there are situations that require backup.” That’s why in 2008, a specialized group called the Skagit Technical Response Team (STRT) was created to supplement the brigade and provide aid during unusual rescue situations. Like the brigade, STRT is a team of City Light employees who are trained beyond their day-to-day skills.
In 2016, the brigade was crucial to the containment of the Goodell Creek Fire, which severely threatened the Skagit Hydroelectric Project and the surrounding communities. For Watson, an emergency of any size is important because of the brigade’s local impact.
“We have helped friends, family, co-workers and strangers who are often having the worst day of their lives,” says Watson. “The brigade provides services that no one else in this geographical area can. When the fire alarm goes off, they have to switch gears and put on a different hat. We have a pretty extraordinary team up here.”
Last November, the fire brigade added a new vehicle to their fleet, a state-of-the-art ambulance. The new vehicle replaced a unit that had been in service for nearly 25 years. Watson and the brigade worked closely with the City Light Fleet and Mobile Equipment team to build a unit that meets their unique needs. Some of the unique features include snow chains that engage with a flip of a switch, a hydraulic lift and cabin airbags to protect first responders when treating a patient.
Thank you, Newhalem-Diablo Fire Brigade, for keeping the City Light employees and its visitors safe!
Experience the majestic beauty of the North Cascades next summer on a Skagit Tour. Skagit Tours provide a fun and educational experience for people of all ages. Visit https://www.seattle.gov/light/damtours/skagit.asp for more information!
Did you know that 47,700 home fires in the U.S. are caused by electrical failures or malfunctions each year? From an outlet with too many plugs (remember that one scene in Christmas Vacation?) to a major appliance plugged into a power strip, overloaded circuits in your home can be dangerous.
Here are a few symptoms of an overloaded circuit:
- Flickering, blinking or dimming lights
- Blown fuses
- Warm or discolored wall plates
- Cracking, sizzling or buzzing from outlets
- Burning odor coming from wall switches
- Mild shock or tingle from appliances or switches
Thankfully, the Electrical Safety Foundation International has tips on how to prevent overloaded circuits, possibly reducing the risk of injury or property loss:
- Never use extension cords or multi-outlet converters for appliances.
- All major appliances should be plugged directly into a wall outlet. Only plug one heat-producing appliance into a receptacle outlet at a time.
- A heavy reliance on extension cords is an indication that you have too few outlets for your needs. Be sure to have a qualified electrician inspect your home and add new outlets.
- Remember, power strips only add additional outlets; they do not change the amount of power being received from the outlet.
For more information on how to avoid overloading your home, visit www.esfi.org/resource/don-t-overload-your-home-545.
On Thursday, more than 240 members of the City of Seattle community attended the Women in Power: Press for Progress event. This event celebrated International Women’s Day and powerful women everywhere.
The event took place in the Bertha Knight Landes Room, named after Seattle’s first female mayor. Opening speaker Mayor Jenny Durkan, the second female mayor more than 90 years later, recognized the significance of the space and the moment.
The morning panel discussion event included women from across the City of Seattle including: Deputy Mayor Shefali Ranganathan, Interim Chief of Police Carmen Best, and Acting Director Seattle IT Tracye Cantrell. The discussion, moderated by City Light Director Michelle Vargo, surrounded the importance of mentorship and encouraged the audience to amplify one another throughout their work. Each panelist contributed their unique perspective from their experiences and departments.
The afternoon panel, moderated by City Light Director Maura Brueger, featured four of Seattle’s six female city councilmembers: Lorena González, Lisa Herbold, Debora Juarez and Teresa Mosqueda. The panelists focused on the importance of being heard and becoming agents of change within their spaces.
City Light’s Sarah Davis, who founded and chairs the volunteer Women in Power group, was thrilled with the event and is excited to see where the conversation goes from here.
“Today is a testament to what we can accomplish when we work together,” explains Davis. “I hope people left the room inspired, excited, and with a desire to do something. Actually, I want people to say ‘yes’ to do two things: one thing for themselves, and a second that will benefit someone else.”
A special thank you to the committee who made this event a reality: Sarah Davis, Stefanie Johnson, Koryn Kennedy, Holly Krejci, Courtney Adams, Kathryn Mork, Bianca Smith, Uzma Siddiqi, Martha Hobson, Stefanie Guzman and Dana Robinson-Slote.
More than 200 viewers watched the event via Skype. Click here to watch the event in its entirety.
About Women in Power
Created in late 2016, Women in Power (WIP) is a City Light employee-run group whose mission is to foster professional development, better support one another, and address unique issues women face in the workplace. In addition to bi-monthly programming and the International Women’s Day event, WIP recently launched a 6-month pilot mentoring program. WIP is open to all City Light employees (both women and men).
For more than 50 years, the Boundary Hydroelectric Project has powered Seattle with its clean hydropower. At 340 feet tall, the concrete double-curvature arch of Boundary Dam cuts an imposing figure on the Pend Oreille River in northeastern Washington. In January, City Light submitted an application to the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation for Boundary to the National Register of Historical Places. Today, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation determined that Boundary meets the National Register criteria.
“Determining the Boundary Project’s eligibility for the National Register is a requirement of our license to operate the dam, but to be listed on the National Register is an honor,” explains City Light’s Mike Aronowitz. “It’s confirmation that the history and design of Boundary deserve to be nationally recognized and preserved.”
The nomination will now be sent to the Keeper of the National Register within the National Park Service, who makes the final listing decision.
ABOUT THE BOUNDARY HYDROELECTRIC PROJECT
City Light announced its plan to acquire the Boundary Dam site and construct a hydroelectric power plant Oct. 27, 1953. On July 10, 1961, City Light was issued a license by the Federal Power Commission, granting the utility permission to utilize a section of the Pend Oreille River and construct Boundary Dam. Construction began in August 1963 by carving out 500,000 cubic yards of the limestone mountain to make way for the world’s largest underground powerhouse at the time. The machine hall, which houses the turbines that generate electricity, was excavated to be 477 feet long, 76 feet wide and 15 stories below the ground. The dam itself was built to an astounding 340 feet tall, 32 feet at its base and eight feet at its crest. The reservoir that retains the water from the Pend Oreille River is 1,794 acres and 17.5 miles long, roughly three times the size of Lake Union.
The 1,040-megawatt Boundary Hydroelectric Project (Boundary Project) impounds the Pend Oreille River in a rural canyon north of Metaline Falls, in Pend Oreille County (pronounced Pon-deh-RAY), Washington, and is owned and operated by Seattle City Light (City Light) under Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) License No. 2144. Completed with four generation units in 1967, the multi-component facility was built between 1963 and 1967 and consists of a concrete variable-radius, double curvature, thin arch dam, an underground powerhouse, the Vista House, and other support and recreation-related built resources as were developed during the original construction period. The overall nominated district covers 167 acres, all located within the larger boundary for the FERC license.
The Boundary Project is located at river mile 17 on the Pend Oreille River in a narrow canyon in the Selkirk Mountains, in northeastern Washington, about ten miles north of the Town of Metaline Falls and one mile south of the U.S.-Canada border. Boundary is a multi-component project occupying 167-acres within the larger licensed area, and is operated by Seattle City Light under FERC License No. 2144.1 The individual resources of the Boundary Project were designed by multiple engineering firms and architectural firms as detailed below, under the direction of Herbert V. Standberg, City Light’s project engineer, with Cr. Hoidal and Robert L. Skone providing, respectively, civil and electrical engineering oversight.
The Boundary Project is documented as a “district” which includes the dam, forebay, powerhouse, transmission line, Vista House, and related recreational and support structures, tied together by the original looped road system from the controlled access point at the end of Boundary Road.
In 2013, City Light was issued a new license to operate Boundary through 2055. With the new license comes several important recreation developments that will directly benefit the local community and promote economic development. Improvements are already underway at the Forebay Recreation Area. Other enhancements are slated for Metaline Waterfront Park in 2018, followed by two new spectacular viewing locations and a portage trail for kayakers around Metaline Falls in 2019. A new hiking trail on the east side of the reservoir will be added in 2020.