Short Circuits

Short Circuits

Everyone makes mistakes. Some are just funnier than others.








Up and Down and Turned Around

While working in a large foundry, I got paired up with a traveling person that had just hired in. We were pulling in wire and terminating it on 480V, 3-phase combination starters. After completing my portion of the job, I observed the other “new hire” terminating the feed wire on the bottom terminals of the starter. When I asked him what he was doing, he replied, “The wires were too short to reach the top so I put them on the bottom. It's all the same, and the starter will still function.”

Man, oh man. Needless to say, we had to go back and check all his work to make sure everything was correct. He said that this was the only one that he had terminated this way, but we still checked everything!
Michael R. Smith
Saginaw, Mich.

No Tears of Laughter

A number of years ago I was doing all the electrical work in the area for a savings and loan company. They were experiencing far too many holdups and decided to invest in dye packs (bundles of wrapped bills with an explosive dye and tear gas packed inside). These packs were designed to activate when a robber passed through the door and exited the building. The system operated on an RF signal from a transmitter connected to an antenna mounted over the door. The problem was the dye pack installer would use as many extension cords as needed to get power to the transmitter, and the savings and loan VP didn't like this setup. So we were called in to install receptacles at the proper locations.

At one of the branch offices, the circuit we had to extend consisted of nonmetallic-sheathed cable. The electrician who originally wired the building had put the bare ground wire under a cover screw rather than under the bonding screw. So when the cover was removed, the ground continuity was broken. This caused the ground wire in the Romex, which routed throughout the teller area, to become an antenna that then activated all four dye packs. When my employee reconnected the ground under the proper screw, it set off all four packs. The exploding packs ended up tear gassing all the employees and customers of the branch present at that time. Before it was over we had the FBI, state police, city police, fire department, and bank officers all on the scene. Although we were not held responsible, this was a very embarrassing event.
Robert Butterfield
Shelbyville, Ind.

Illustrations by Clint Metcalf

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