Dippy Duck takes energy safety message to schools

News | October 30, 2013

Dippy Duck is growing up. The Imperial Irrigation District recently revamped its iconic mascot’s appearance and safety program to include an older audience.
The IID unveiled its Dippy Duck energy safety program in the first week of October in Calexico at Enrique Camarena Junior High School. It then took its message to Wilson Junior High School in El Centro, and Frank Wright Middle School on Tuesday in Imperial.
Like the Dippy Duck canal safety program, the energy program’s message is simple and vital: electricity can kill.
“What you learn here today could save your life or that of somebody you know,” said Aaron Popejoy, addressing students on Tuesday at Frank Wright Middle School.
Electricity can occur naturally, like in lightning storms, or is generated by utilities such as the IID, Popejoy said. And while it is used every day to power appliances and video games, it can also be very dangerous he said.
“Electricity always attempts to travel to the earth in a straight line, a process called grounding,” he said.
It does this either directly or through a conductor, something that provides a path for electricity to complete its journey. Water and metal are excellent conductors.
“And the human body is more than 50 percent water, which also makes it an excellent conductor, unfortunately,” he said.
“It can easily use our bodies to find the ground, which often occurs in a deadly manner,” Popejoy said.
But, the flow of electricity can be controlled with the use of insulators, he added. Electrical cords need to be examined often to make sure that their insulation is not torn and frayed, or the ends aren’t coming out, he said.
Popejoy had other tips.
Don’t use electric appliances around bathtubs, sinks or other wet surfaces, he said.
Don’t insert metal objects into power outlets, he said.
Energy safety is as important outdoors as indoors.
The IID has transmission lines all over its service area, all of which can be dangerous if one is not careful.
Kites, model aircraft and Mylar balloons should not be played with or released near power lines.
“Something as simple as a kite can take out the power in your neighborhood,” he said.
But, more significantly, one risks being electrocuted while trying to retrieve objects tangled in power lines.
Power lines that have fallen should be avoided, Popejoy said.
Should an energized power line come in contact with a vehicle, one must be very careful to not create a path from the car to the ground when exiting the vehicle.
According to an IID safety video that Popejoy shared with the students, one should stand on the car’s floorboard with both feet and hop out and then “bunny hop away,” making sure to avoid any contact with the energized car once out of the car and touching the ground.
Seventh-grader Allie Crumdy said she learned a few things at the presentation.
“Don’t let balloons go under power lines,” she said.
The thin layer of aluminum that gives Mylar balloons their sheen also acts as a conductor, making them potentially dangerous if they get stuck in power lines, Popejoy said to the students.
In addition to the safety presentation, the IID distributed energy safety newsletters to every school in the Imperial Valley, officials said.
Budgetary and scheduling conflicts notwithstanding, IID officials hope to bring back Dippy Duck’s energy safety message next year.
“This year we targeted the biggest schools in the biggest cities. We hope to expand the program next year,” said Marion Champion, IID spokeswoman.
Staff Writer Antoine Abou-Diwan can be reached at 760-337-3454 or