National Grid should respond more quickly in emergencies

To the Editor:

Not surprise on a three-hour response time from National Grid to the fire at 206 Main Street in Altamont after it was struck by lightning [“Lightning strikes Altamont home,” The Altamont Enterprise, Aug. 18, 2019]. The owner is very lucky the firefighters could still extinguish the fire.

A number of years ago, a home in Feura Bush had to be allowed to burn to the ground because the utility crew from National Grid never arrived in time. The construction of the house and the position of the electrical wires were such that the power had to be turned off to fight the fire.

An acquaintance saw the family while shopping days later and was asked by one of the children, “Why couldn’t you save my house?” The family did sue the power company and were able to eventually rebuild. 

Although our firefighters are trained to handle all aspects of firefighting and heavy rescue, they are not allowed to be trained and certified to turn off the electrical power to a structure that is on fire or a motor vehicle with live wires draped across it after an accident. The term is “pulling the loop.”

It is outrageous that every fire department does not have two or three trained and certified members who can assess and “pull the necessary loops” in the immediate area. With mutual aid response, there would always be at least one duly certified firefighter.

When my daughter attended college in South Carolina, the utility company had true emergency response teams that traveled “red light and siren” with the responding fire departments when turning off electrical power was necessary to fight the fire or free occupants from a vehicle that’s draped with “live wires.”

I can’t imagine being in a car accident, needing medical intervention, but having to wait for National Grid to “get around” to appearing to shut off the power. National Grid is not operating in the best interest of the people who live, work, and travel in their service areas.

Anne L. Haun Rymski


Editor’s note: Virginia Limmiatis, spokeswoman for National Grid, said that the company doesn’t support other parties working on its electricity lines — that includes cutting power. This policy is directly connected to both state and federal law, she said. First responders, unlike National Grid crews, she said, are not properly trained to work on the lines, nor do they have the proper equipment needed to do so. Under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration as well as the New York State High-Voltage Proximity Act, workers who are not electrically qualified or trained cannot perform work on energized circuits, Limmiatis said; Colin Brennan, director of communications for the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, confirmed the latter.

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