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Copper Wiring Theft Results in Power Outage for Emergency Repairs

November 16, 2009

AEP Ohio  continues to offer reward for information leading to successful convictions
GAHANNA, Ohio, Nov. 16, 2009AEP Ohio interrupted power to thousands of customers in the Grove City area this morning to make emergency repairs to the company’s McComb Substation, which was hit by copper thieves over the weekend.
“We had to interrupt power to nearly 12,000 customers in the Grove City area to protect our employees and the public while our crews repaired damage caused by these thefts,” says Natalie McCord, AEP Ohio Columbus District manager distribution system. “This theft created an extremely hazardous situation that potentially could have resulted in serious injury or death to our employees or anyone near the station. As soon as the theft was discovered, it was reported to local law enforcement and we acted immediately to de-energize the station to eliminate the risk of dangerous, high voltage shock. Thieves can be and have been seriously injured or killed when removing copper from energized electrical equipment.”
When AEP employees discover station break-ins or equipment thefts, employees immediately report the theft to AEP’s dispatch center and to the appropriate local law enforcement agency. The McComb break-in was reported to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.
These incidents also are very costly to the company and potentially could affect customers’ future electric rates. It costs AEP Ohio roughly $25,000 per incident on average to repair. Since mid-June, Approximately 40 AEP Ohio substations have been hit by copper thieves. Approximately 12 of these break-ins required outages to make repairs, affecting more than 66,000 AEP Ohio customers.
Theft of copper from electric facilities is not a new problem. It happens repeatedly year after year, generally increasing through the spring and early summer and again as the holidays approach. In continuing efforts to raise public awareness, AEP Ohio has taken numerous steps to curb these thefts, including using broadcast and print media and billboards to communicate information about copper theft. In recorded telephone messages to customers in areas hit by copper thefts, AEP Ohio asks customers to report any suspicious activity near substations, power lines and other electrical equipment to AEP Ohio’s security hotline at 866-747-5845 or to 911. The telephone message informs customers the company offers up to a $5,000 reward to anyone who provides information resulting in an arrest and conviction for theft and vandalism at AEP Ohio facilities.
In addition to instituting the reward, AEP Ohio began installing copper-clad wire in its facilities late in 2008.  Copper-clad wire has a steel core, no scrap dollar value and is difficult to cut. The company this summer began distributing door hangers containing AEP Ohio’s security hotline number in the Columbus area to residents who live near AEP Ohio substations that have been hit by thieves. The company also is deploying new security technology around its facilities.
Residents, as well as the company’s customers, are encouraged to call AEP Ohio’s 24/7, toll-free security hotline at 1-866-747-5845 or local law enforcement to report suspicious activity around AEP Ohio facilities. Additional information on copper theft can be found at aepohio.com.
AEP Ohio provides electricity to nearly 1.5 million customers of major AEP subsidiaries Columbus Southern Power Company and Ohio Power Company in Ohio, and Wheeling Power Company in the northern panhandle of West Virginia. AEP Ohio is based in Gahanna, Ohio. The company serves all or part of 61 counties in Ohio and two in West Virginia


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