Warren’s Words of Wisdom: Notice Anything Dangerous in This Picture?


Is it the small tree on the F-150 or the family who all look the same? I agree both are scary. (Hurricane Sandy)

Actually, the box attached to the pole is the scary part. The box contains a large battery Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) system to keep people using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) on the cable system operable during power outages for 911 calls. If you’ve bundled your phone/cable/internet with one company, you are using VoIP. Each state can have different maximum operating voltages. In Connecticut, it tops out at 90 volts, 15 amps DC. Some states allow up to 120 volts. All are DC powered.

Think DC current is safer than AC?

Both AC and DC currents’ shocks can be lethal. Yes, more DC current is required in order to have the same effect as AC current, but that doesn’t mean it’s safer. For example, being electrocuted by 0.5 to 1.5 milliamps of AC will equal the health effects of 4 milliamps of DC current, and 30 milliamps of AC will induce heart fibrillation, whereas it takes 300–500 milliamps for DC.

Both AC and DC will kill you. The phone and cable DC systems on the distribution poles will ALWAYS be energized by UPS during storms. The UPS systems are good for 24–48 hours and then you’ll see the phone and cable crews running around with small DC generators connected at the UPS boxes and chained to poles to keep the VoIP system operating during prolonged power outages. The larger phone company boxes have a large generator connection on the side or bottom.

Not only will the AC primary (4,800–23,000 volts) and secondary (120–480 volts) powerlines kill you, the DC phone and cable systems can kill you. During storms or at broken poles, ALWAYS treat ALL down wires as “HOT” with the ability to kill you. Remember, the DC systems have batteries keeping them energized!!!

If you see melting insulation on cable lines on the side of a house or on the cables running between poles, you are looking at a fault condition—something is raising the voltage in the normally low voltage cable so high it’s melting the plastic cover. STAY AWAY and don’t touch anything in the area, you don’t know where the power is coming from!


Or it could be caused by you binge streaming all 73 episodes of Game of Thrones (kidding)!

About Connecticut T2 Center

The Training & Technical Assistance Center at UCONN provides education and technical assistance to members of Connecticut's Transportation and Public Safety Community, including municipal public works directors, street and road maintenance superintendents and staff, city and town engineers, Connecticut Department of Transportation employees, transportation planners and law enforcement professionals serving as legal traffic authorities. We are Connecticut's LTAP Center
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