This content was featured in the March 2023 issue of Kansas Country Living.
As the weather gets warmer, children can more often be seen climbing trees, flying kites, and playing outdoor games with friends. However, before you send your kids outside to have fun, make sure they are aware of electrical dangers that could put a frightening halt to playtime.
“Children often do not understand that electrical equipment can be hazardous. In their innocent and imaginative minds, what can be potentially dangerous may go unnoticed, or even appear enticing and fun,” says Erin Hollinshead, executive director of the Energy Education Council and its Safe Electricity program. “Make some time to teach youngsters about outdoor electrical hazards before sending them out to play.”
One of the messages to share with children is to look up and look out for power lines. It is important to keep yourself and any play items away from power lines or anything that could be in contact with those lines.
Kites should only be flown during good weather conditions in large open areas like a park or a field. In addition, kites should be flown away from overhead power lines or other electrical equipment. A kite string can conduct electricity from an overhead line directly to the person on the ground.
Children also need to be aware of how dangerous it is to climb trees near power lines. Climbing a tree tangled in a power line can energize the tree with electricity and lead to electric shock or death.
Ensure your children are protected from the electrical service connection to your home. Be aware of these lines around pools. Pool skimmers can be long enough to reach service connection lines.
Additionally, teach your children to never play around pad mounted transformers. These are green metal boxes that contain the above ground portion of an underground electrical installation.
“These cabinets carry high voltages and are safe when locked, but they can be deadly if someone reaches inside,” Hall adds. “If you see one in your neighborhood that is open, call authorities and your utility immediately.”
Also, teach your children to never enter an electrical substation for any reason. If a ball or other toy enters the fence surrounding the substation, call your utility for help. Substations hold deadly amounts of electricity and should only be entered by professionals.
In addition to talking to your children about outdoor safety, there are also steps parents and caregivers can take to help ensure safe outdoor play.
- Make sure all outdoor outlets are equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to help prevent electric shock.
- Keep all long handled tools out of reach of children so they will not be tempted to or accidentally hit an overhead power line.
- Pay attention to trees and power lines. Do not plant trees near them, and if there is a tree that has grown into a power line, make sure to call a professional to trim the tree.
For more information on outdoor electrical safety, visit SafeElectricity.org.