Pets threatened by hidden power hazards

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - A U.S. company is roaming Metro Vancouver streets looking for high voltage hot spots caused by aging underground wires that are putting animals — and humans — at risk of electrocution.

The New Jersey-based Power Survey Company is hoping to use its technology that detects the electrical faults and turn it into a business deal with the regional government.

"Infrastructure's buried everywhere," said company spokesman Dave Kalokitis. "Eventually when wires get old and insulation becomes frayed, you'll have situations where things at the surface become energized. That's what we find."

Kalokitis said technicians use an electric field detector mounted on a truck to find places where the leaking voltage is electrifying objects such as street lamps, sidewalks and manhole covers.

The hazards can be very dangerous, he said.

"It's often like taking your hand and sticking [it] inside your service panel. If you touch something like that you can be electrocuted."

The danger is greatest for pets and wild animals that don't have the insulating protection of shoes, and the results can be deadly.

Humans could also be at some risk.

Last fall, a dog in Seattle was electrocuted and another dog was badly shocked in November after stepping onto an electrified section of sidewalk in Victoria.

"The [traffic] light changed, Logan did two steps, touched the plate, went on his side, started shaking," said the dog's owner, Mara Szyp. "He kept shaking and crying."

Logan survived the ordeal, but there are unconfirmed reports of several dog deaths across North America in the past decade due to random electrocution from deteriorating infrastructure.

Typically, Kalokitis's company is hired by a municipality or a utilities company to find the problem spots. Staff from the local municipality or electrical utility staff follow behind and fix the problems.

Kalokitis has brought a crew to Vancouver to demonstrate what they can do.

The company tested a small area of the city one night and found over 100 potentially dangerous hot spots, he said.

Lois Jackson, mayor of Delta, B.C., and the chair of Metro Vancouver got a demonstration of the technology recently.

"I think all of us that have animals that cannot speak obviously are interested in having safe streets where we take our animals and young children," Jackson said.

Kalokitis said his company already has contracts with some Ontario cities and in communities in 20 U.S. states.


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