January 21 is National Squirrel Appreciation Day, which is a significant observance for public power utilities and the communities they serve.
We have our disagreements with squirrels because they cause thousands of power outages each year. The critters damage electric infrastructure, aggravate utility workers, and disrupt service to customers.
Historically, the best we could say about "squirrel appreciation" is that we would appreciate them more if they stayed away. Recently, though, we’ve been willing to try a more conciliatory approach of direct dialog. For example, listen to the special squirrel episode of APPA's Public Power Now podcast from January 2022 where we spoke with a squirrel representative.
In that spirit, we have a some tips for how squirrels can stay safe:
- Obey warning signs. Don’t touch, hang out near, or hover above transformers. And while you’re at it, please keep away from substations, too.
- Don’t build your nest on electrical equipment: This environment is no place to live.
- Find another route: Avoid using conduits or going inside insulated pipes/wires. These may look like a nice, sheltered routes from the weather, but they are actually there to protect you from high voltage. In short, stick to the trees (see last tip).
- Be flexible and ready for change: If you find that your carefully built nest is gone, it might be because you built it somewhere unsafe. There’s probably a suitable alternative nearby.
- Think before you chew: Gnawing on lines and other equipment might be soothing on your teeth, but poses a significant danger to you. You don’t want a power line to be your last meal!
- Only hang out in trees that aren’t near power lines: We know trees are your friends, but some are better influences than others. We work hard to trim back branches or reduce the threat of a tree (and you!) falling on a distribution line so you can enjoy all trees, but be on the lookout before you leap to a new area. Especially if it has rained a lot recently, trees might have grown faster than crews can keep up.
We know squirrels aren’t the only ones affected. Share these tips with your friends – furry, scaly, or feathered – to help keep them safe as well. Let's keep working together to keep us all safe and the lights on.
(Utilities, do you know how much squirrels impact your reliability? Track your outages and see how you compare with other public power utilities with a subscription to our eReliability Tracker.)