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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, June 4, 2004
CONTACT: Sue Schaefer at (605) 773-3201

South Dakota Public Utilities Commission and the Energy Safety Association Proclaim June 13-19, 2004 as Energy Safety Awareness Week

PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission announced today that it will be teaming with the state rural electric cooperatives, investor owned utilities and municipal utilities to promote Energy Safety Awareness Week in South Dakota, June 13-19, 2004. This year's focus will center on summer storm safety and what to do in the case of downed power lines.

Forecasting summer weather in South Dakota can be a tricky thing. here is one sure prediction that the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission and the Energy Safety Association of South Dakota can make: Power lines downed by a summer storm are a serious threat to everyone.

"It's a common misconception that a downed power line isn't dangerous because there isn't electricity running through it anymore," PUC Chairman Bob Sahr said. "That's just not the case, and making that mistake can be lethal."

A power line that has been disconnected from a utility pole is still active. Electricity always seeks a path to the ground, so if you're in the way, the electricity will travel through you, giving you a serious shock at best and electrocuting you at worst.

"The only sure thing about a downed power line is that it is dangerous to everyone," Commissioner Gary Hanson said. "That's the only prediction anyone can safely make about summer storms. These storms can cause chaos, and our desire to help or at least see what's going on can put us in danger."

"If everyone can follow these common sense steps, we can avoid more trouble than has already been caused by the storm," Commissioner Jim Burg said. "The main thing is to call the authorities right away and stay away from any power line that is downed."

The South Dakota PUC and the Energy Safety Association have some tips to help prevent this from happening to you. • Consider any downed power line alive and dangerous, even when a utility pole has been knocked down by a storm or accident. • Never go near a downed power line. Keep others away from it. Electricity can jump several feet, so you don't have to be touching a line to receive a severe shock. • Water is an excellent conductor of electricity, so avoid it when there is a downed line in the area. • If you come upon someone who has been shocked by a live power line call 9-1-1. Don't try to help the victim or move them, because you could be shocked as well. • If you're in your car and a power line lands on it, stay in your car and avoid touching anything metal. • If the car is on fire, or you absolutely must get out, jump away from the car so you're not touching the car and the ground at the same time. • Never drive over a power line that has been downed. • If you see a downed power line, call 9-1-1 immediately, and then call your electrical provider.

For more information, people are encouraged to contact the SDPUC at (800) 332-1782, or Bob Miller at the South Dakota Energy Safety Association, (605) 224-6311.