A close call

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When I think of close calls, I remember my visit to the Ajax Café. The Ajax Café was a pleasant seafood restaurant on a quiet little bay near Seattle, Wash. Most visitors enjoyed a nice meal and maybe some live music. The best thing I can say is, I survived my visit.

Traveling on a family vacation, my wife and I had looked forward to our dinner at the Ajax. We arrived early for our reservation, and one of our young children was fussy. I took him outside to look at the boats as we waited for our food to arrive. I noticed a man nearby had pulled his sailboat out of the water onto a trailer and was slowly pulling forward. As he kept moving our direction, I noticed far too late that he had left the mast up on his sailboat and was about to make contact with a high-voltage power line overhead. As the mast hit the line, I gripped my toddler son and ran. In less than a second the power line we had been standing under hit the ground, sparking and hissing. I hate to imagine the outcome if we had not noticed the accident and run out of the way. In this event, the worst thing that happened was the delay to our meal because of the resulting power outage. But, hundreds of people each year are not so fortunate.

Despite continued efforts to educate people in electrical safety, accidents such as the one I witnessed continue to occur. It is easy to forget the reach of long items like masts and ladders, and the consequences can be deadly.

A new concern as we enter the summer months is dock safety. Many people enjoy the advantages of an electrified dock, but all too often these systems fall into disrepair. If the wiring is damaged or installed incorrectly the electrical system can appear to operate normally, but the water surrounding the dock can become inadvertently electrified, giving no warning to the danger. For this reason no one should ever swim near an electrified dock. Don’t take the risk; let your children swim somewhere else.

Sometimes a summer storm knocks down a power line. Remember, you can’t tell by looking if that line is dead. Never assume it is. If you see a line on the ground, call 911 or your local utility, and let trained linemen resolve the danger.

My close call ended well, but for all too many people that is not the case. Electricity is the greatest servant of man, but it can also be very dangerous. If you see a hazardous situation developing, say something. Let’s work together to help each other stay alert and avoid the dangers of accidental electrical contact.

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