Protecting the public from unsafe contact with our electrical equipment is a challenge and one that we work hard at every day. Educating the general public and contractors about safely working around power lines is an ongoing process, and we have targeted communications that we share with trade groups and others. Another area of concern is the homeowner who climbs a ladder without realizing the proximity of an electric power line or digs a hole without knowing that there is an underground power line in that location. We use all communication channels available to provide safety information to the public. Unfortunately, sometimes it is unheeded.
Copper Theft Steals Safety
Fifteen public fatalities in 2013 were the result of vehicles crashing into utility poles, and three public fatalities and four additional electrical contacts resulted from attempted copper theft. There also were seven other public fatalities.
Attempted copper theft, which can cause customer outages in addition to grave physical harm or death, remains a problem in parts of our service territory.
Our governmental affairs teams have been working with state legislatures across the AEP system to create or strengthen laws that could help stem incidents of copper theft. New legislation was introduced in certain states in 2013, with increased penalties for scrap dealers who buy stolen copper.
We also seek to educate the public through community and media outreach. Our Southwestern Electric Power Company utility hosted an informational workshop last spring in Texarkana, Ark., for police, legislators, scrap dealers and the news media to showcase the dangers of copper theft.
We also enlist help from our customers. All customer bills feature an annual message about copper theft that includes a phone number for reporting incidents.