Al Feleciano was just warning Saturday how dangerous a downed power wire can be when Zzzap! 3,000 volts arced across the driver whose car hit the power pole.
Of course, Feleciano meant to do that.
As the public safety coordinator for Sierra Pacific Power Co., Feleciano was making a graphic point to onlookers in Carson Mall that they need to look out for possible hazards from electrical systems following accidents and natural disasters.
Sierra Pacific was one of several agencies participating in the third annual Earthquake Awareness and Preparedness Week demonstrations at Carson Mall.
Feleciano and SPPC emergency preparedness administrator Jim Regan were using their "Hazard Hamlet" wired with an actual 3,000-volt power supply to demonstrate hazards ranging from downed power lines to worn-out extension cords.
Regan or Feleciano would point out hazardous situations such as a kite string contacting a power transmission line and, with a push of a button, an electrical arc would spark across the point of contact. Children grouped around the demonstration jumped back with nervous giggles at the crack and buzz of the sparks.
"These demonstrations make an impact of the kids," Feleciano said later. "Just last week, I presented an award to an 8-year-old Portola, Calif., boy. He'd been through our training, then noticed power lines arcing in a light rain storm and reported it to us."
The pair also showed people how they can turn off the electrical supply at their breaker boxes in the event of an earthquake.
The demonstrations were organized by Carson City Fire Department Battalion Chief Dan Shirey, who is Carson City's emergency management director.
Volunteers from the Sierra Nevada Chapter of the American Red Cross were on hand to provide literature, recruit volunteers and show off emergency equipment they sell to help people prepared in case of emergencies. Those included:
-- Strapping systems to keep televisions, water heaters and furniture from tumbling during a quake.
-- "Go bags" - backpacks stocked with blankets, first aid kits, flashlights and radios with batteries, water and other items to cover the needs of the first few hours of a disaster.
-- Special wrenches for shutting off gas supply lines in case of an earthquake.
Jack Frobes, emergency services coordinator for the chapter, said Carson City needs several more Red Cross volunteers, so a disaster team can be formed and trained here.
"The goal is 'neighbors helping neighbors' because we can get to an area of need so much quicker," Frobes said. March is recruitment month for the American Red Cross and more information is available by calling the chapter's Reno office at 856-1000.
Mike Riedel, supervisor of customer Service for Southwest Gas, brought along a demonstration gas meter so he could show people how to properly turn off their own gas supply lines in case of an earthquake.
Riedel also explained that gas company workers must be the ones to return the supply back on, because the pressure regulators can be damaged unless special pressure gauges are used to monitor the process. He said the gas company technicians would also check for leaks and relight pilots once and emergency is over.
Tom Gordon, a water utility technician with Carson City Utilities, had example water meters on display so he could explain that built-in back flow prevention valves protect the water system in case of most emergencies, so people usually do not have to worry about shutting off water supplies. People with problems with their main water supply should call the city water department rather than attempt to fix things themselves, he said.
The event also gave Gordon the chance to explain the wireless transponders being installed on local water meters so monthly readings can be taken electronically.