Rochelle Municipal Utilities Utilizes Trailer to Demonstrate Electrical Safety to Community

The electric department for Illinois public power utility Rochelle Municipal Utilities is utilizing a 7,970-volt trailer to demonstrate electric safety to the community of Rochelle, Ill.

In an interview with Public Power Current, Blake Toliver, Superintendent of Electric Operations and Generation at Rochelle Municipal Utilities, noted that the trailer has three poles on it, as well as an ASCR conductor and two 5-kVa transformers on each end.

“We have a contactor that’s controlled by one of the linemen while the demonstrations are going on,” Toliver said. The demonstration includes a backfeed as the contactor is closed and it energizes the conductor with full primary voltage.

“We use that to show the community what would happen if you were to put an aluminum ladder against a primary line,” he said.  

“We also show what the linemen have to protect themselves from the voltage,” Toliver said. In addition, the trailer demonstration shows “what the linemen do on a day-to-day basis with glove inspections and sleeve inspections, making sure their tools are cleaned and waxed, and things along those lines.”

A key goal of the trailer demonstration is making sure that “people have a respect for the amount of energy that’s out there on the primary line.”

The trailer was completed in 2022. So far, the trailer has been used with a citizens’ academy and, more recently, with the city’s fire department.

During the fire department training, “We talked a lot about what to do in a scenario of a fire because they’ve always questioned whether they should be the ones removing the meters or whether they should call us.” The utility “would prefer that they call us anytime and we will come out and disconnect the power and guarantee that their safe in the house that they’re working in.”

RMU staff also showed that their hoses can conduct electricity and talked about keeping aerial firefighting apparatuses away from power lines.

“The other thing that we talked to them about was pole top rescue and bucket rescue because the firefighters had no idea that our linemen are actually trained to rescue each other,” Toliver noted.

“I’m hoping to get it in front of the schools and do some more community engagement,” he said.

In high school demonstrations, not only will the utility be able to share important safety lessons, but it will also be able to expose students to possible utility careers, Toliver said.

“Linemen are getting harder and harder to come by,” he pointed out.

"We're a proud public power community," said Rochelle City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh.  "I truly admire the way our staff jumps in to give back to our community with their unique knowledge."

As for the ways in which RMU emphasizes the need for safety with its own staff, Toliver noted that the utility has a safety committee where officials from various RMU departments can discuss various issues.

“We’re doing anything that we can to make” the jobs of RMU personnel as safe as possible.

In addition, RMU utilizes the American Public Power Association’s Safety Manual. “We actually have all new copies sitting in my administrative assistant’s office to distribute to the linemen,” he said.

APPA released the 17th edition of its Safety Manual in February.