Young HEA members learn electrifying lessons on safety

Posted: Monday, June 07, 2004

A small group of Homer Electric Association's youngest members were treated to an educational presentation on electricity Friday at the Church of Christ in Soldotna.

"Safety is out main message," said Joe Gallagher, an HEA public relations employee. According to him, the presentation was part of a broader HEA program to teach the kids where electricity comes from, how it gets to their homes and the dangers presented by it.

Jim Cooper, an HEA safety coordinator, gave the actual presentation. He engaged the kids of Cub Scout Troop No. 1616 with an interactive display called "Electric City" a scaled down version of a real city, complete with power lines, transformers and a miniature fenced-in substation.

"This is the same thing you would see outside only smaller," said Cooper. "These power lines carry 10,000 volts of electricity. It only takes 50 volts to kill a person, so what do you think would happen if this little girl gets too close to the power lines with her kite?" he asked the children.

Then with heavily insulated gloves and a long wand, he pushed a small human figurine with a tiny plastic kite on the end of a wire toward one the power lines in Electric City.

"This is what would happen," Cooper said.

The children gasped and jumped in their seats as the air crackled and a tiny glowing ribbon of electricity arced out from the power line to the kite.

After that, Cooper had their full attention and spent the next hour giving multiple scenarios that a child could potentially encounter all involving electricity.

This brought a barrage of questions from the children, such as: why don't birds sitting on the power lines get electrocuted; why is the fence around a substation electrified; and how do electric eels make electricity?

Cooper, who has been working with electricity since 1968 and giving educational presentation since 1988, said he thought the scouts had some great questions.

"I try to use real-life examples to show different things and explain it in terminology they can understand," he said.

"I like what I do because I think it can save some children from being hurt or killed. If it just keeps one kid safe, then it was worth being here," he said.

Tony Cloud, a den leader for the scouts, said he enjoyed Cooper's presentation.

"I think the kids and the adults learned a lot about electricity, safety and what HEA does. It helped with questions my children have asked me that I may not have had all the answers to," he said.

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