Downed powerline safety training brings team effort

West River Electric and first responders participate in an electrocution scenario
Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 3:28 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - It was a safety training day for first responders and West River Electric crews. Working on electrical lines is one of the most dangerous jobs in America and while not overly common, utility workers can be killed or seriously injured in accidents involving electricity.

It all began with a downed power line, three linemen laying on the ground, and a lineman electrocuted in the bucket of a work pickup truck. “Well, this instance is a very low frequency, very rare event, and those situations that we try to train for more often, just because it is a rare event. But you still must know exactly what you’re doing when you show up to these events,” said Capt. Mike Bartling, Rapid City Fire Department. Finding a scene where people are electrocuted is rare, however, Bartling says downed power lines happen every day.

So, for emergency services and electric company employees, this scenario is usually one you only see in books. “You talk about it, and you can memorize everything, but once it’s there and it’s going on, thankfully enough it wasn’t a real one it was just a practice one, but still,” said Tucker Hohn, a journeyman lineman for West River Electric. He reveals, “You still get worked up in the moment doing it.”

Hohn was prepared for the scenario and how to help at the scene, as for the first responders, they only knew there was training. Bartling says, “It was unknown. So, the first responders, they only knew ahead of time what the dispatch information was going to be. So, when they showed up, they didn’t know how many people they were going to have, the positions, or where people were going to be.”

“So, it was a surprise,” and a shock but all groups involved prevailed and victims were headed to the hospital in just under 30 minutes, Bartling said as he praises the effort from all the groups involved.

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