North Arkansas Electric Cooperative is investigating two recent break-ins at two of its Baxter County substations resulting in the theft of several pounds of copper. The thefts, which occurred over the past week in the Mountain Home area, left the cooperative with over $6,000 in damages.
According to Mel Coleman, chief executive officer, the distribution of electricity is one of the highest priorities of the United States Department of Homeland Security, and such acts of vandalism pose a direct threat to the distribution of electricity to its members and could be considered acts of terrorism. The appropriate authorities have been notified and the cooperative will do everything in its power to bring those responsible to justice.
"The high price of copper wire has led to an increase of attempts to steal the wire from power lines and even in substations. The Danger -- Keep Out or Warning -- High Voltage signs on substation fences are there for the protection of members and the public in general," said Coleman. "Substations convert high-voltage energy from transmission lines into lower voltage electricity to supply homes and businesses. Substation equipment is exposed to high-voltage energy with some components energized at more than 100,000 volts.
"Substation facilities are fenced and locked for a reason -- safety. Distribution power lines are suspended at certain heights for a reason also -- safety. Only trained, well-equipped professionals should enter a substation or attempt to make contact with a power line. Anyone else entering a substation facility or making contact with any component of a distribution power line subjects himself to many potential dangers and could also inconvenience an entire town by disrupting electric service."
Coleman especially urges parents to remind their children to stay away from electric substations and also discuss electric power line safety with their children.
"We work very hard throughout the year to teach children to stay away from substations and power lines, and to be aware of the potential for danger. As adults we must also be aware of the potential dangers," he said. "A human life is worth much more than the price of scrap copper."