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Attachment keeps power flowing — and squirrels going

July 31, 2023 | Jason Kuiper | reliability
Squirrel guard attachment protects animals and power equipment

Why does OPPD use them?

Power outages occur for a variety of reasons: weather, vehicle crashes, trees encroaching into lines and animal interference among others. Squirrels spend time on the lines and power poles, as do birds and occasionally raccoons and possums. They can cause problems when they chew through lines or come into contact with equipment.

For animal safety and power reliability, OPPD’s specifications call for installing animal covers, commonly known as “squirrel guards” on overhead equipment. Installation of the guards in established areas are based on outage numbers.

What are they?

There are two components to what are referred to as squirrel guards. One component is just what it sounds like, rubber boots or covers that fit over primary bushings, lightning arrestors, wires and other equipment up on the lines near the transformers. Some areas of line that are at odd angles, such as connectors, are covered with special tape to protect against curious animals.

squirrel guard attachment
The squirrel guard requires several pieces of equipment.

The other component involves installing “cutouts” on the poles. Line technicians install them on small arms near the top of the pole that contain a transformer fuse. These fuses serve as reliability protection for customers and protect primary feed wires. The transformer fuses will fail if an animal still gets through the other protections on the pole or transformer it will cause just that transformer fuse to blow. So instead of multiple transformers out and multiple customers without power, the fuses ensure the outage is isolated to only the customer served at that location.

How common are they?

Squirrel guards are on a majority of OPPD’s overhead equipment, especially in older areas of the service territory. These areas have more trees where animals can hang out. Crews continually add the guards to poles as situations arise.

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About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He is a former staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald, where he covered a wide range of topics but spent the majority of his career covering crime. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and has also appeared in several true crime documentary shows. In his free time he enjoys cooking, spending time with his wife and three children, and reading crime novels.

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