Special to The Leader
The Orange Leader
BEAUMONT, Texas —
Entergy Texas, Inc. customers in the Beaumont area this week were twice unnecessarily subjected to brief power outages. That’s because thieves had broken into substations and in the process of stealing metal, left behind damage that required the facilities to be taken off-line for a few minutes so repairs could be safely made.
The area substation supervisor, Luke English, said the break-ins at Jirou and McHale substations on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, caused voltage imbalances, a situation that could have resulted in serious damage if it had not been detected early and repairs made immediately. Entergy personnel were dispatched so quickly there was no time to notify customers an outage was about to occur. Fortunately, the outages only lasted several minutes.
Entergy Texas is, however, committed to meeting the problem head on. The company aggressively protects its equipment and its customers by maintaining surveillance of facilities, and has a policy of certain prosecution of those whose actions threaten safety or customer service.
“We have installed video cameras at many of our facilities, giving us real-time monitoring capability,” explained Cecil Turner, head of security for Entergy Texas. “That alone has enabled us to make more arrests and recover more materials.”
Turner also cited how well Entergy Texas’ field employees work together and also the good relationships between the company and local law enforcement agencies. Additionally, the company has established good relationships with area scrap metal dealers who will report suspicions of theft to law enforcement and Entergy Texas so arrests can be made.
But there’s more at stake with thefts from electrical facilities than the loss of mere metal destined for a scrap dealer or even someone’s arrest and possible subsequent criminal record. These thefts carry extreme risk for the perpetrators and the possibility of undermining the electrical system’s reliability.
“We do not want anyone to put themselves, our employees or our customers at risk,” stated Vernon Pierce, customer service director for Entergy Texas. In one incident, a man and three of his friends tried to steal copper from a facility at a shopping center. The effort caused a flash and started a fire. The man was not severely injured, but his three friends certainly didn’t help—they fled the scene.
“Only carefully-trained, safety-conscious Entergy Texas employees with specialized equipment have business in our substations or up on our poles,” Pierce said. “A typical substation serving a community or neighborhood may have as much as 230,000 volts of electricity coming into it, many thousands more volts than is required to cause death. For example, one-tenth of the amount of current needed to power a 100-watt light bulb is enough to create a serious heartbeat irregularity. Imagine what 230,000 volts could do.”
Additionally, when these incidents occur, Entergy Texas’ reliability suffers. Customers in Beaumont’s West End, as well as customers in The Woodlands may well remember substation theft incidents in recent years that left them without power when the effort resulted in serious damage.
“We will protect our equipment,” Pierce said. “And we do not hesitate to prosecute those who pose a threat to our ability to provide customers with a safe, reliable source of electricity.”
Entergy Texas, Inc. provides electricity to 416,000 customers in 27 counties. It is a subsidiary of Entergy Corporation.