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I&M Uses Technology to Reduce Outages and Deter Squirrels from Equipment

March 29, 2022

At I&M, we are dedicated to providing reliable and safe service to our more than 600,000 customers in Indiana and Michigan. I&M is working to keep squirrels safe and prevent the power outages they sometimes cause. 

Did you know that squirrels are the No. 1 cause of animal-related outages at I&M? I&M is installing animal protection devices on our equipment and at substations.

“There are a number of animal protection devices,” said Chris O’Byrne, I&M Distribution System Supervisor. “At I&M we use three main pieces of technology in place across Indiana and Michigan on our equipment to deter not only squirrels, but birds and any other curious animals from getting hurt and causing an outage to our communities.”

The most common pieces of technology I&M implements are: 

Left: pole wrap; top right: protection covers and insulated wiring; bottom right: line guards.
  • Pole wraps: These hard plastic sleeves are screwed into a pole, and squirrels can’t easily dig their claws into them to climb. This protection is especially important for poles containing more equipment because animals are most likely to come into contact.
  • Animal protection covers and insulated wiring: Birds often eat bugs from the crevices around our equipment, and squirrels like to gnaw on the metal wires to file their teeth down. Either can potentially be a fatal mistake for the animal. To help prevent this, hedgehog-shaped plastic covers are placed on the transformer’s bushings, and the wires connecting the wire to the transformer are covered with insulation and a rubber conductor cover.
  • Line guards: Rollers spin if a squirrel tries to cross the spiderweb-like guards which bookend the device. Line guards are typically placed on the spans of wire that enter and exit our substations – a dangerous place for squirrels since there is plenty of equipment for them to make fatal contact. These devices help reduce substation outages, which often affect larger numbers of customers.

"None of these techniques are foolproof and animals will try to do what they do. But, we want to keep working hard and deploying strategies to keep animals safe and reduce power outages,” O’Byrne said.

I&M also uses lasers at a few substations. The lasers emit a green light, simulating a predator, to make birds fly away. Animal deterrent fences inside some substations are also in place.

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