Wednesday, November 04, 2009

NY City Maps of Con Edison Shocks and Stray Voltage Available Online

After the tragic 2004 death of Jodie S. Lane due to stray voltage in the street from Con Edison's system, the New York PSC began to require systematic checking by electric utilities of their facilities for shock and safety hazards. For background, see PULP's website page on Con Edison safety and reliability, and PULP's comments on the new requirements that were adopted for testing of facilities in public areas.

The Jodie S. Lane Public Safety Foundation was formed to monitor utility safety. Under a settlement with Con Edison, the Foundation has access to stray voltage and electric shock data of the Con Edison system. The Foundation website now has maps of stray voltage and shock incidents in New York City that dispaly the location of discovered faults and reported shocks in one's neighborhood, simply by clicking a point on the map or entering a street address.

After several years of improved reporting of shocks, stray voltage, and safety issues, perhaps the most interesting development is the advent of mobile screening technology. Sensitive equipment, mounted on trucks, is capable of sensing voltage in the streets, with video equipment that aids in identifying energized facilities such as manhole covers and electrical boxes. The scanner also identifies non-utility property such as municipally owned and maintained street lights which may be shock and safety hazards but which are not likely to be found by manual checking of utility owned and maintained facilities.

Con Edison has agreed to do twelve full system scans of its system in 2009. Some utilities, however, have been less than enthusiastic about using the mobile scanning equipment, and are slow to adopt it, perhaps because the scans identify additional maintenance chores and could lead to attendant repair expenses the utility might prefer to avoid or defer.

Niagara Mohawk recently asked the PSC to postpone implementation of a previous plan to begin mobile stray voltage screening of its system. The Jodie S. Lane Public Safety Foundation opposed the utility's request, and it was withdrawn. See Niagara Mohawk Withdraws Request to Delay Mobile Scanning for Stray Voltage in Upstate Cities, PULP Network, September 16, 2009.

See Bill Sanderson, Stray volts E. Side, W. Side, all around the town, N.Y. Post, November 6, 2009:
Hardly anyplace in New York is free of potentially deadly stray voltage, with Con Ed crews finding dozens of hot spots around City Hall, Midtown, the Village -- and even near utility CEO Kevin Burke's Upper East Side home.
The Wonkster, Stray Voltage Around the City, Gotham Gazette Nov. 5, 2009:
Within a quarter-mile of Gotham Gazette’s offices, there were 103 incidents of stray voltage in the past 21 months. Five of them were potentially fatal, and one shocked a person or a pet.
Patrick McGeehan, Mapping the Sites of Con Ed's Stray Voltage, N.Y. Times, Nov. 5, 2009:
Mr. Lane had this warning for New Yorkers: “As a pedestrian, you cannot avoid energized objects; they’re there.” His best advice to New Yorkers, he added, is to “never touch a street light, never touch a traffic light, don’t walk in the puddles on the sidewalk and you should absolutely never walk barefoot.”

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