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.”
Martha Molina celebrated two-years at City Light in early June. As the Return to Work Coordinator, Martha works in the utility’s Safety division. “I act as the liaison between the Seattle Department of Human Resources and City Light’s supervisors, managers and injured workers,” Martha explained. “In my role, I help bring people back to work. Studies show that the quicker an employee returns to work following an industrial injury, the better chance they have for a 100% recovery as opposed to being away from work.”
Martha was born in Guatemala, but also lived in Los Angeles for six years before moving to Seattle. “I moved here when I was ten, so I’ve spent the greater part of my life in the Northwest,” Martha shared. “I haven’t been to Guatemala since I was four. We have a big trip planned this summer and I can’t wait!”
Martha lives in Federal Way with her husband Mario and their two chihuahuas, Buttercup and Dixie. In this week’s (spot)Light, Martha talks about her volunteer work and how it’s applicable to her role at the utility.
“I went to Highline College, transferred to the University of Washington and graduated with a degree in political science. I originally wanted to be a lawyer, but after working at a law firm, I realized that it wasn’t for me. The law firm where I worked specialized in worker’s compensation. From there, I went to a risk management group. Both of those experiences gave me a good foundation for the work I do now. I’m able to interpret code and laws and know how to apply them.”
“I do a lot of work with the community, specifically with young woman empowerment. I help young girls develop their skills for professional careers and, overall, build their self-esteem. I recently presented at the ‘Young Educated Ladies Leading’ (Y.E.L.L.) Summit where girls 14 – 18 years old participated in a variety of different workshops. It’s so important to develop those life skills. It’s also important to have an outlet; to learn how to speak for yourself and to be confident in who you are and how you feel. Those are themes we focus on at these Summits. My presentation was titled ‘Embracing your Inner Monsters.’ It’s fun to work with youth and teach them that no matter what challenges or obstacles you face, there is still opportunity to grow and be successful.”
“I also volunteer with Hispanic Seafair. I help with interview workshops, resume reviews, drafting cover letters…topics that align with career and vocational pursuits. Ironically enough, throughout the claims process, there is a portion that deals with vocational assessment which ties into my day-to-day work at City Light! Also, go Huskies!”
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!
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.
When outages occur, City Light’s response prioritizes life safety first, followed by emergency services and then by repairs which will bring the largest number of customers back into service.
In the event of widespread outages, repairs can take hours, and significant events can take even days. Here are some tips to help you be prepared and stay safe during a winter outage:
- Report the Outage – If you experience an outage, please report it by calling City Light’s Power Outage Hotline at (206) 684-3000. Remember to give us your name, address, phone number and describe any unusual circumstances that could help us identify the problem. You can also visit the Seattle City Light Outage Map to get updates on restoration work, as well as following City Light’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.
- Have Your Phone Ready – Cordless phones will not work without electricity. Have a corded or cell phone available. If your cell phone is your primary phone, make sure it is charged, and you have a phone charger ready. It’s a good idea to keep external batteries charged too.
- Stay Away from Downed Power Lines – Downed power lines are extremely dangerous. If you come across any downed lines, do not approach or touch anything in contact with the wire as it could be energized and live. If you see a downed power line, call 911 or (206) 684-3000. You can also report downed power lines by sharing it through City Light’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.
- Keep Warm and Bundle Up – Try to retain as much heat as possible. Close windows, curtains, unused fireplace dampers, and have blankets ready to conserve body heat. Cold weather is especially hard on infants, children and the elderly. Dress in several layers of lightweight clothing, covering the head, feet and hands.
- Have Your Emergency Kit/Plan Ready – Prepare an emergency kit if you haven’t already. Some ideas to include are a working flashlight, glow-in-the-dark stick lights, wind-up clock, portable radio, manual can opener and mylar blanket. During a major storm, have a plan for locating family members if you are not with them. For more information about emergency kits and plans, please visit: www.takewinterbystorm.org.
- Use Hot Water Sparingly – Most hot water tanks will retain heat for up to 24 to 72 hours.
- Close Your Refrigerator/Freezer – Keep your fridge and freezer closed as much as possible. A full refrigerator will maintain safe temperatures for up to six to 10 hours; a full freezer is safe for up to 2 days. In most cases, food should be safe if refrigerators and freezers remain closed while the power is out. When in doubt, throw it out.
- Unplug Electrical Appliances – If you experience a prolonged outage, be sure to turn off electrical appliances to prevent fires and equipment damage. Some electrical appliances to consider unplugging before a storm hits include computers and televisions.
- Be Cautious with Generators and Grills – Use generators with care during a power outage and always use portable generators outside in well-ventilated areas. Never plug a generator into your home circuitry. Instead, plug in appliances directly into the outlets on the generator. When it comes to the grill, do not use barbeques indoors.
- Be Fire Safe – Do not use candles as a light source nor any open flame as a heat source.
- Electric Garage Owners – Know how to use the manual override of your electric garage door if your power goes out.
- Remember Your Pets – Household pets such as cats, dogs, fish and birds may require special care. Contact your veterinarian for more information.
- Life-Support Customers – If you rely on electric life-support machines, make sure you have emergency power and know how to operate it. Make sure your system has an alarm to alert you if the power goes out.
If you experience an outage, please report it by calling (206) 684-3000.
For more information on how to prepare for this winter’s weather, visit takewinterbystorm.org/.
Senior Safety Specialist Christian Wong has worked at the utility for two years. As part of the Safety, Health and Wellness team, Christian specializes in Industrial Hygiene and Programs. “I assist the administration and help with the standards writing,” Christian explained. “I also help to implement, update and reconfigure our programs processes as well as manage our data migration.”
Born in Canada, Christian grew up in Kent and graduated from Central Washington University (CWU) where he studied Safety and Health Management. “My immediate family lives in Kent; it’s nice to be a few minutes from my parents,” Christian shared. “We just returned from our annual winter trip to Whistler. It’s a fun tradition we have as a family.”
In this week’s (spot)Light, Christian talks about his family, his role and how he got started in the field.
“I like to paint and play guitar. I love music; I can’t stop listening to it. You’ll most likely catch me humming and whistling around the halls. In high school, I went to every possible concert I could. I even joined a band. I thought it was so awesome. I was on the tail end of growing up in the grunge area which was a big influence on my life especially living in Seattle. My mom and dad are both music fans. I’d have to say that Fleetwood Mac is the one band we can all listen to together and just rock out.”
“My dad is a contractor; he actually built my house! I used to help my dad on various projects and because I was familiar with the field, I originally studied construction management in college. As part of CWU’s construction program, we helped build houses in Ellensburg. I was on-site one day, and the instructor asked me to climb up a ladder and go onto the roof. There was no other equipment to assist me—no cleats, no tie-offs, no safety precautions. It really irked me because he was risking my safety to complete a job. I complained to the program director who suggested I check out the safety program. I instantly had a passion and affinity for it, so, I enrolled in the program and finished my studies in that field.”
“At the utility, we’re required to follow the safety programs of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Many of these rules and regulations require a lot of administrative rule in the process as well as making sure that we’re compliant. A good example of this is our hearing protection program. We’re required to offer annual hearing tests and audiograms to employees who are exposed to a certain decibel level. I coordinate all the program testers and ensure we’re following regulations and are properly notifying our employees.”
“Overall, I like the fact that I can send someone home without them being injured or hurt. To know that our employees can go home and watch TV or lift their kid is amazing to me. And any protection that I can help provide is completely satisfying. I relate to my dad in that way. He works with the principle ‘If everything is OK with you, then I’m ok.’ It’s something I’ve adopted and applied to my professional life.”