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Fire Department / Utilities Discuss Power Lines

Fire Department & Utility Discuss Delays in Shutting Down Power Lines after 2009 Electrical Accident of Fireman

 

Scranton, PA – Representatives from the Scranton Fire Department and PPL Electric Utilities met last week to discuss solutions to the issue of PPL’s sometimes-belated response to fires and plan to meet again next week.

Scranton Deputy Fire Chief Allen Lucas said the meeting Wednesday at PPL’s facility on Larch Street aimed to “pinpoint deficiencies on both ends.”

What Deputy Chief Lucas called a “brainstorm session” produced “a lot of good ideas,” though the two plan to meet again next week along with representatives of the Lackawanna County Communications Center to iron out the details of proposed pilot programs, he said.

“We’re going to try to design some new procedures to put in place that, hopefully, might be the catalyst for the entire county to try and improve all of the deficiencies,” Deputy Chief Lucas said.

The issue came to a head after a Dec. 16 fire at Pittston Avenue and East Elm Street. Fire Chief Tom Davis raised concerns about PPL’s response to that fire, citing a nearly 40-minute delay in shutting off electrical lines after the arrival of the first fire crews.

PPL spokesman Richard Beasley said at the time that the utility company felt its 25-minute response from when its records show it was notified of the fire was “timely.”

While no one was hurt as a result of the delay, it would not have been the first time if someone had been.

On Jan. 6, 2008, city fire Capt. James Robeson was electrocuted when the ladder truck bucket he was in came into contact with a 12,400-volt overhead power line while fighting a fire on Ash Street.

Findings from a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health released in 2009 found mixed communication between PPL and the Fire Department helped cause the devastating accident. The utility company reported the power lines were de-energized, but the Fire Department did not verify which lines had been de-energized, the report found.

“The biggest thing is just going to be in communication and timely communication on both ends,” Deputy Chief Lucas said of last week’s meeting. “It all comes down to communication.”

Mr. Beasley agreed with Deputy Chief Lucas’ assessment of the discussion.

“The overall emphasis is going to focus on how to communicate better, making sure that all parties know what’s expected of them and how to best meet those expectations,” said Mr. Beasley, who was at the meeting.

Story via TheTimes-Tribune.com

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