Increasing Number of Customers Digging Into Lines, Cutting Trees Onto Lines, or Crashing Into Power Poles
COLCHESTER, Vt. – Green Mountain Power (GMP) is alerting customers that with the nicer weather, they should also protect themselves and their property by thinking ahead, paying attention and being safe when driving, or doing yard work. GMP is seeing an increasing number of reports of customers felling trees onto lines, excavating work digging into lines, construction and other large vehicles pulling down lines and drivers hitting utility poles. These incidents are dangerous, cause property damage at people’s homes and outages for other customers.
“Safety is at the front of everything we do at GMP, from the field crews, to the office team, to our interactions with customers. We want everyone to be safe, and we are concerned about this recent increase in customer safety situations. Safety is a choice, and having it front of mind is key as these recent problems are preventable with planning and attention,” said GMP’s Chief of Field Operations Mike Burke. “We want to raise awareness so everyone goes home safely and before there is a horrible accident.”
Reports to GMP for vehicle-pole crashes average one per day in its service territory, and 2019 is on track to be one of the worst years in recent memory with 132 reported crashes so far. GMP saw a dip in the number of vehicle-pole crashes in 2014 when the hands-free driving law went into effect, with 285 crashes. Then, the numbers bounced back up, averaging about 358 per year since then. About 56% of these crashes cause outages for customers. GMP has no statistics on injuries related to these crashes because local first responders handle them, but police say distracted driving is causing more crashes across the state.
“Last year distracted driving caused at least 1,500 crashes in Vermont – 48 of those crashes with fatalities or serious injuries,” said Lt. Tara Thomas who is the Commander of Safety Programs for the Vermont State Police. “Distracted driving comes in many forms; using a GPS, searching for music on a portable electronic device, or having your attention diverted from the roadway due to passenger distractions in the vehicle. The sole responsibility when operating a motor vehicle is to give it your full and undivided attention. Lives depend on it. Help keep Vermont roadways safe and – Just Drive.”
Reports of dangerous digging problems are also on the rise with a five-fold increase in the last five years. Customers dug into, damaged and severed lines 52 times last year, and just halfway through this year it has already happened 27 times.
Customers doing their own tree work is not only risky, but they’ve dropped trees onto lines 26 times so far this year, well ahead of 2018 and 2017 with 36 and 39 incidents respectively.
“Luckily there have been no injuries from these tree and digging incidents. Customers should survey the area where they are working, and if there are overhead lines nearby, call ahead to GMP before doing tree work at home. We can shut off power if needed. Call 811 for DigSafe before doing any excavation. You can easily find out where it is safe to work. A simple step like picking up the phone can save you a lot of time and money. It could even save your life,” said Burke.
GMP recommends using qualified contractors. If customers are doing exterior work to their homes, or in their yards, they can call GMP at 888-835-4672 to report vegetation in lines or request temporary disconnection of power so work can be done safely. GMP qualified electrical workers can also wrap the house service point for protection. Customers can also request an assessment by a qualified arborist for questions about trees or branches in or near lines.
Useful contact info for customers:
GMP: Call 888-835-4672
DigSafe: Call 811 or http://call811.com/map-page/vermont
About Green Mountain Power
Green Mountain Power (GMP) serves approximately 265,000 residential and business customers in Vermont and is partnering with them to improve lives and transform communities. GMP is focused on a new way of doing business to meet the needs of customers with integrated energy services that help people use less energy and save money, while continuing to generate clean, cost-effective and reliable power in Vermont. GMP earned a spot on Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies in the World list three years in a row (2017, 2018, 2019). GMP is the first utility in the world to get a B Corp certification, meeting rigorous social, environmental, accountability and transparency standards and committing to use business as a force for good. J.D. Power’s 2018 rankings put GMP among top utilities for customer satisfaction.
Kristin Kelly, Green Mountain Power