Hunt responsibly; don’t shoot near fiber, electric lines
A responsible hunter never pulls the trigger unless they are certain their action will not harm people or property. But apparently not all of those heading outdoors follow this most important rule.
Increasingly, electric co-ops are seeing their lines and other equipment damaged by careless shooting, leading to dangerous situations, expensive repairs and lengthy outages for members.
The issue is especially troubling for electric cooperatives providing fiber internet services. “It’s always been this way: You shoot a bird on the wing, you don’t shoot a bird on the wire,” says Lynn Hodges, CEO of Ralls County Electric Cooperative and its fiber subsidiary, Ralls Technologies.
“I’m a sportsman too, I hunt. But some people just don’t think about it. What they have to understand, as a lawful, ethical gun owner you are responsible for the shots that you take. You are also responsible for any damages that may occur from that shot.”
“During a regular season we will experience somewhere between a half dozen to a dozen outages related to a shotgun blast,” Lynn says. “Shooting at these lines can result in possible physical injuries, lawsuits for costly damages and possible criminal prosecution for the shooter.”
He says it’s not unusual for damages from these incidents to total $1,500 and it can go up, topping $10,000 in some cases. “It is not fair for our membership to subsidize repairs for that line when we can identify who is responsible,” he adds.
It can be difficult to locate damaged fiber lines. At SEMO Electric’s GoSEMO Fiber, one outage caused by a shooter lasted from the evening well into the next day.
“We went from 8:30 Wednesday evening and it was not back on until 4 p.m. Thursday,” says Nathan Hull, administrator of fiber construction for GoSEMO. “That’s working nonstop, five hours with six guys to replace it. People are working from home, and this is very frustrating for those depending on our internet to complete a job and get paid on Friday.”
Adds Lynn, “Fiber has become a critical infrastructure piece. With the dependency on these internet connections and the ability to work from home or do schoolwork, people squeal pretty hard when it goes out. It is a terribly bad reflection on the co-op when the system is out for four or five hours while we make the repair. It reflects on the overall consistency of the service we offer.”
He urges landowners who let others hunt on their land to point out where power lines are located and declare those areas off limits to hunting.
Shooting into a power line is bad enough. It damages the wires and can cause problems that will show up down the road. But damaging a fiber line causes an immediate outage that will affect many people, often including the shooter.
“It’s embarrassing when you have to make a call that you just shot your own fiber out,” Lynn says. “Hopefully it’s just to themselves and not the 400 residents who live around them.”