Utilities Warn Pokemon Go Players: Don’t Get Zapped!

Pikachu

Don’t want to get zapped? Then think twice before getting too close to utility equipment in your quest for Pikachu.

That’s the message from electric utility operators after the berserk release this month of “Pokemon Go,” the new online app that has millions of Americans wondering blindly across parks and pavement.

“Please be aware of surroundings while playing #PokemonGo,” Duke Energy tweeted this week. “Personal safety > catching ‘em all.”

Entergy had a similar tweeted message. “Pokemon Go got you going places? While you play, PLEASE STAY AWAY from electrical substations and other utility equipment.”

Using GPS technology from their own phones, Pokemon Go players search outdoors for fictional creatures they can capture, train and battle. The “augmented reality” technology mixes the real world with virtual reality. But utility officials fear the new craze also may put players in harm’s way.

With their smart phones held high as they search for creatures, Pokemon Go players could get too close to dangerous infrastructure like power plants and substations, utility officials have said. The Climate Wire news service noted several such warnings from utility officials, although so far none have reported any Pokemon Go-related injuries.

American Electric Power’s Tammy Ridout noted specific concerns relating to “electric-type” Pokemon.

“Apparently Pikachu, who as you probably know is one of the most recognizable Pokemon and the Pokemon mascot, is electric,” Ridout told the news service. “With how quickly the game grew — basically overnight — we wanted to spread the word about the dangers of electrical equipment so players wouldn’t attempt to go near it.”

A pop-up warning appears on the Pokemon Go app reminding players to stay alert, and remain aware of their surroundings. But utility officials nonetheless express concern.

“Warning signs are there for a reason, but you need to be paying enough attention to see the signs,” Edison Electric Institute spokesman Brian Reil told Climate Wire.

— R.A. Dyer

What is the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power?

R.A. Dyer is a policy analyst for TCAP,  a coalition of more than 170 cities and other political subdivisions that purchase electricity in the deregulated market for their own governmental use. Because high energy costs can impact municipal budgets and the ability to fund essential services, TCAP, as part of its mission, actively promotes affordable energy policies. High energy prices also place a burden on local businesses and home consumers.