In late 2018, Seattle City Light completed its ninth consecutive year conducting contact voltage testing. With the help of Power Survey Company, City Light was able to identify and repair 17 instances, 10 City Light-owned and seven privately-owned systems, where metal structures or equipment were improperly energized with at least 30 volts of electricity. These instances were responded to and repaired immediately after being discovered. Power Survey Company supports the testing by calculating survey routes to ensure area coverage and using their mobile detection program to detect and log the events. This year’s findings were slightly fewer than those in 2017, when 18 instances were discovered by this survey testing. Testing in 2018 also identified 12 instances of contact voltage of less than 30 volts, which were also responded to and either repaired or de-energized. Over the nine years of survey testing, no accidents or injuries have resulted from this method of testing.
Contact voltage events can be the result of many factors, including weather, improper installation, aging infrastructure and corrosion. City Light’s contact voltage testing and response is a demonstration of the utility’s commitment to safety, both for the public and for its employees. Surveying for contact voltage events can also help increase power quality and decrease vault fires. To continue to address these matters, City Light is working to strategically refurbish and replace infrastructure as outlined by a 10-year horizon plan.
With Seattle’s recent weather, it is important to note that most cases of contact voltage occur in the winter months when weather can be a factor. You can keep yourself and your loved ones safe by taking these tips into account:
- When walking your pet, be aware if your pet acts strangely around any potentially energized metal equipment.
- Don’t tie your pet’s leash to a streetlight or near a handhole.
- Avoid contact with metal equipment that could be energized.
- Report any streetlights that remain on during the day or that are flickering during the evening. This could indicate a problem.
- To report a malfunctioning streetlight or a streetlight that is out, go to seattle.gov/light/streetlight.
You can read the full report here.