PSE calls on residents to report strange activity

August 9, 2011

By Staff

Puget Sound Energy is calling on citizens to report suspicious activity near neighborhood power substations and report such activity to 911.

The request came after a woman suspected of stealing copper wire from a substation in Enumclaw sustained severe burns to her arms and face Aug. 1.

Authorities said the woman and another person cut through 8-foot-high barbed-wire-topped cyclone fence and entered a PSE substation. Inside, the substation has voltages as high as 115,000 volts.

PSE servicemen discovered the woman, and called for medical aid, as they responded to a power outage caused by the attempted theft.

What to know

Puget Sound Energy suggests taking the following steps to prevent copper theft and remain safe around electric facilities:

  • Report suspicious activity around a substation, poles or other electrical equipment, and call 911.
  • Report information about copper thefts to the police.
  • Never enter or touch equipment inside a substation.
  • Stay away from power lines and anything touching a power line.

“Thieves who enter substations to remove copper wiring and vandalize equipment risk serious injury or death from these high-voltage facilities,” Dave Foster, manager of corporate security for PSE, said in a statement. “In addition to putting themselves and the public in danger, the vandals can cause power outages and tens of thousands of dollars in repair costs, which ultimately impacts customer bills.”

Foster said the Bellevue-based utility is experiencing a significant increase in copper thefts, as a result of higher copper prices and current economic conditions. Since August 2010, more than 50 copper thefts have occurred at PSE substations and on utility poles.

PSE operates 430 substations in nine counties, including six in Issaquah and three in Sammamish. The utility serves more than 1 million electric customers and almost 750,000 natural gas customers throughout Western Washington, including Issaquah.

“We want everyone to be alert and to call 911 if they see any suspicious activity around substations and other utility equipment,” King County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. John Urquhart said in a statement.

PSE, utilities and law enforcement agencies in the Puget Sound region joined to collaborate on ways to stop the copper thefts. The company also added more patrols, motion-activated lighting, identification coding on copper wire and a video alarm system to substations.

“Our greatest opportunity for curbing copper theft is in working closely with law enforcement agencies, our local communities and the scrap metal dealers,” Foster said.

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One Response to “PSE calls on residents to report strange activity”

  1. Doug on August 12th, 2011 11:27 am

    What is suspicious is that my power bill was tripled for four of the last five months. It jumped from $125 to $430 for a month for an 800 sf cabin.

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