Protecting the public from unsafe contact with our electrical equipment is a challenge, and we are always looking for better ways to get important safety information to our customers and to the public. As an industry, we continue to be concerned with the number of people from the public who come into contact with power lines and electric equipment each year.
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AEP proactively engages with the public and our customers on the hazards of electricity by using social media platforms, such as, Facebook. Social media has been a valuable tool in reaching a wider audience, with the number of our Facebook followers more than tripling over the past three years. Our “Safety Saturday” Facebook campaign focuses on educating the public about downed power line safety, “call before you dig” safety, electric outage safety, the dangers of copper theft and other safety tips. Another way we reach the public with safety information is through advertising campaigns in English and in Spanish and electrical safety community outreach events.
Despite our efforts, there were 11 public fatalities in 2016. Seven were the result of vehicles crashing into utility poles, and four were caused by contact with our electrical facilities. We had the same number of public fatalities in 2015, but fewer than in 2014, when we experienced 16 public fatalities, including one that resulted from copper theft. Vigilance in pursuit of Zero Harm extends to members of the public. We will continue to work towards educating the public to avoid such tragedies.
Those at risk range from billboard installers and highway construction workers, to homeowners doing home improvements and thieves who steal copper wire from substations and other equipment. Our industry is active in educating the public about the danger of coming into contact with live electrical equipment as well as promoting how to safely work around our facilities.