Sam Molina

Before working for Tucson Electric Power, Sam Molina regularly encountered electric safety issues while on patrol as a Tucson Police Department officer, including downed power lines, car crashes into transformers and fires.

Now that he works as a Safety Supervisor, Molina trains first responders on how to keep members of the public – and themselves – safe around electricity.

“We try to make it safer for them to do their work,” Molina said. “There are so many things that can go wrong. We really work hard to communicate what the hazards are.”

Police, fire and volunteer patrol officers often are the first on scene when an electric outage or problem occurs. Because of that, our employees have conducted trainings at agencies in Pima County. We also lead sessions with construction contractor companies and local businesses.

When Molina started working at TEP about 13 years ago, he often served as a liaison between first responders and TEP during emergency calls. He noticed that some officers and firefighters needed assistance with how to respond.

“We figured there was an educational piece missing,” Molina said.

He started offering sessions at the training academies, in-service classes and debriefings. Molina usually leads the lessons, often alongside TEP staff members, about six times a year.

As a former police officer, Molina understands the dilemmas that first responders face at scenes.

For example, firefighters might have the instinct to spray water on a substation fire, but that would only increase the potential for injuries. When a power pole falls on a car, first responders might want to immediately extract the passengers. However, it is safer for passengers to stay inside until the electricity is turned off. Or, an officer might want to try to move a power line if traffic is backed up.

Molina trains Green Valley Sheriff’s auxiliary volunteers, who support the Pima County Sheriff’s Department. About 135 volunteers conduct patrols in Green Valley as part of the group.

The volunteers often assist at traffic collisions, downed power lines and electrical hazards, sometimes helping to direct traffic.

Ken Bottemiller, the auxiliary’s director of training, said the education helped them learn to avoid electrical lines until they are notified that they are neutralized or grounded.

“We really haven’t thought about those issues before,” Ken said. “We’re highly appreciative of the training.”