National Electrical Safety Month: Power Lines on Trees

 

Some would say that spring is simply the most delightful time of the year here in Seattle (and frankly, it’s hard to disagree!). As trees and shrubs begin to blossom, it may be tempting to go outside and start trimming. Before you break out the shears, there are a few safety tips to keep in mind. We reached out to City Light’s arboriculturist and resident tree buff Heidi Narte for tips on how to keep your pines, maples and family safe around power lines.

 

Here are a few of Heidi’s handy safety tips:

  • Keep kids safe – make sure their play activities don’t include trees near power lines. Trees touching power lines may become energized, causing a dangerous situation for kids climbing in them, swinging in them or otherwise playing in them.

 

  • Heading out into your yard to prune trees and shrubs? Make sure you, your tools and the branches you want to prune are a safe distance from power lines. If the branches you’re pruning or your tools make contact with a power line, you could receive an electrical shock injury which can result in significant burns or even death. Branches, tools and you should be at least 10 feet from distribution power lines and 21 feet from high voltage transmission lines.

 

  • See a tree or branch touching a power line? Trees touching power lines may be energized and safety hazards. If you’re not sure whether a tree could cause an issue, give us a call and we’ll check it out!

 

If you have questions about power lines near trees, email SCLVegetation@seattle.gov or call (206) 386-1733 to check in with an arborist. For more information on how to keep your trees safe around power lines, check out the latest issue of Light Reading!

Seattle City (spot)Light: Heidi Narte

Heidi Narte has always loved trees. As a child, she climbed them. As a teenager, she spent hours hanging out in them. So, it’s no surprise she joined City Light in 2014 as an Arboriculturist. It’s also no surprise that, in honor of the recently celebrated Arbor Day, we’re shining the (spot)Light on her.

A native Washingtonian, Heidi grew up on Bainbridge Island, but resides in Burien where she enjoys its thriving sense of community. “I love the community spirit in Burien. We have so many events,” Heidi said. “My favorite is the Burien UFO festival. There’s a band, costumes, prizes. It’s a lot of fun. In Burien, we find any excuse to get together, shut down the main street, listen to live music, dance, and have a good time.”

Heidi received a B.S. in Urban Forestry with Environmental Restoration focus from the University of Washington and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Seattle University. In this week’s (spot)Light, she talks about her role at City Light, her latest hobby of birdwatching (she loves Ospreys) and her passion for the environment.

Heidi in her natural element

“I think the quality of life here in Seattle is amazing. The nature is fantastic. My latest hobby is birding. I’m often tooling around, going for walks with my binoculars. I birdwatch all over. Some of my frequent spots include my neighborhood, Discovery Park, and the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. Skagit County has some pretty wonderful places to watch birds too. I also enjoy puttering in my garden, taking photos, hiking, and bicycling.”

“Most people know our division as Vegetation Management. We coordinate pruning the trees back from powerlines so they won’t interrupt service or be a safety issue. The City of Seattle has a requirement that for every tree we take down, we plant two. We do two plantings (spring/fall) and perform a lot of outreach to different neighborhoods. I love our Urban Tree Replacement program and our customers love it, too. I often hear them say, ‘you’re giving me a tree?’ And we say ‘yes!’ I think it’s just a win-win for everyone. For us. For our customers. For the environment.”

“When deciding where to plant, we look at historically underserved communities. We examine the census data to see where it might be economically a little harder for folks to buy a tree. We select trees that won’t grow too tall and get into our powerlines. I also try to find trees that have some habitat benefits for pollinators and birds and look at species that are not overrepresented in the city (like cherry or maple trees) to try to build diversity in our tree population.”

“I feel really good about the work that I do. It fits in well with my personal mission statement: To make the environment a little better than when I got here…to improve it without being insensitive to the needs of humans. I want to be a voice for nature that can’t speak for itself—places, critters, and plants.”

Thank you Heidi for taking such important care of our environment and for your significant contributions to the utility!