FirstEnergy Spreads Safety Message in the Valley

SALEM, Ohio – In 2019, a bus driver learning his route hit a telephone pole a couple weeks before school started, causing wires to fall down on the back of the 30-foot bus. Not knowing the correct precautions to take, the driver incorrectly exited the bus, unfortunately losing his life.

This is one of the real-life stories told by Matthew Kasinecz, senior process coach for FirstEnergy, at the Salem Chamber of Commerce’s area safety council meeting Friday afternoon at Centennial Park.

The Salem Area Safety Council was met by Ohio Edison representatives for electrical safety demonstrations using a live 7,200-kV single phase distribution system. 

Demonstrations included animals on power lines, trees in lines, digging into power lines, ladders on primary power lines and more examples of dangerous outcomes when interacting with high voltage electrical power. 

Kasinecz said many of these demonstrations reflect real-world situations. He has been giving these presentations for almost two years and has done about 12 years of operations work.

“I have done about 14 or 15 of these presentations,” he said.

Anywhere from two to five line workers are a part of the demonstrations, Kasinecz said. Line workers put on the demonstrations as Kasinecz facilitated the event. 

Kasinecz said they regularly see a large turnout of people attending the presentations. 

“People just sometimes want to do something on their own and might not understand electricity itself,” he said. “Electricity, as we say in our presentation, doesn’t seem to care who you are. You can’t see it; you can’t smell it; you can’t really identify it until it’s too late.”

811 is the national call-before-you-dig phone number. Kasinecz said it is important to remind people to call that number before they try to do anything on their own and ensure everything is safe.

“Safety is a core value here at FirstEnergy,” he said. “One of the reasons I wanted to get involved with this trailer was because it is education around safety.”

Troy Rhoades, Ohio Edison FirstEnergy regional external affairs manager for Mahoning and Columbiana counties, said the live wire trailer is an opportunity to educate the community, whether first responders, students or business safety partners.

A FirstEnergy line worker puts on a demonstration Friday.

So far, three of these presentations have been done this year.

“We try to do anywhere from three to 10 throughout Colombiana, Mahoning and portions of Stark County,” Rhoades said. 

Rhoades said the trailer goes throughout the Ohio Edison service territory, up into the Sandusky area or as far down as south of Springfield.

“My primary job is to deal with the elected officials in the community – township trustees, city and village council members, and then also chambers of commerce,” he said. ”Just communicating with those organizations and seeing if there is someone out there interested.”

Last year, they asked the entire fire chiefs organization for Columbiana County to come out for one of their presentations.

“It was very successful,” Rhoades said. “We had over 100 people that evening.”

Rhoades said their goal is to get about 50 to 100 people to attend each of their events, and so far they have been successful. The primary audience is first responders, including police, fire and public works.

“They’re typically the ones that first come on a scene, whether that’s a traffic accident, a fire or whatever it might be,” he said. “We just want to make them aware of the risks that they need to take into account before they enter into that area.”

Informing the public community is also a benefit, Rhoades said. They are now going into their third year of these presentations.

Each of FirstEnergy’s seven operating companies has a trailer dedicated to these services, Rhoades said.

“We have a large footprint that we can bring this service out to,” he said.

Rhoades said anyone interested in having one of these demonstrations is urged to talk to their local elected officials or chamber of commerce.

For more FirstEnergy safety information, click HERE.

Pictured at top: Troy Rhoades, left, FirstEnergy regional external affairs manager for Mahoning and Columbiana counties, and Matthew Kasinecz, senior process coach for FirstEnergy.

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