To start this post we need to reiterate that calling 911 in an emergency should always be done prior to posting on SeeClickFix. As this issue documents, you create a lot of value created by calling 911 and then posting on SeeClickFix. In this case, the issue did not necessarily constitute an emergency to the reporter and he was unsure if 911 was the appropriate channel. Thanks to an open conversation we all received insight into a rare, potentially dangerous event and learned how to handle it going forward. Ever heard of "Stray Voltage"? Neither had we until this post, but it's real, and it can kill a human if unaddressed.
On Wednesday, a dog walker and SeeClickFix-er, "Concerned Resident," reported an unusual issue that he had suspected for some time but was not able to put his finger on until he chatted with another dog walker in the neighborhood. Last year, "Concerned Resident"would walk his old dog by Grove Street Cemetery until one day the dog yelped and then later refused to walk on that side of the street. He was skeptical about what was going on and asked a few folks what they thought. The only explanation that anyone came up with was that there were "spirits from the cemetery." If any cemetery possesses spirits able to outrun the grave, it's this one. To give some context to individuals outside New Haven, there are some very powerful individuals buried in the Grove Street Cemetary. As a quick history lesson, notables buried in the cemetery include Walter Camp (the father of American Football), Noah Webster (publisher of the modern English dictionary), Josiah Gibbs (the father of thermodynamics), Charles Goodyear (inventor of vulcanized rubber), Jeddidiah Morse (father of American geography), Roger Sherman (a founding father and the only person to sign all four documents of American sovereignty), many Senators , Congressman and SeeClickFix's personal favorite, Eli Whitney (inventor of the cotton gin).
"Concerned Resident" put thoughts about the cemetery aside until he started to walk his new dog. He was startled to find that this dog would not walk on that side of the street either. Recently he advised another dog walker to avoid that side of the street. The other walker replied that he already was avoiding that side on his dog's orders. In their conversation they raised the possibility of stray electrical voltage similar to the cause of death of Jodie Lane in NYC in 2004. Still skeptical that this was the case, they were hesitant to call 911 and so "Concerned Resident" posted on SeeClickFix, Potentially Life Threatening Voltage Leakage On Sidewalk.
Fortunately, New Haven has a host of responsible civil servants who chimed in to assist: the Livable Cities Initiative, The Emergency Operations Center and the Chief Administrative Officer. The Fire Department was notified immediately.
Not to the surprise of "Concerned Resident," it turned out that the pooches were right to avoid that side of the street. There was indeed stray electrical voltage causing the animals to feel uncomfortable. Not to the surprise of SeeClickFix the mechanical culprit was identified and repaired within 48 hours of the initial report:
Concerned Resident (Guest)
RFM (Concerned Resident)
Apparently stray voltage is a huge issue in NYC as reported in this piece from the New York Times. One organization has already started mapping all of the reports of stray voltage attributed to Con ED. Some of our friends in Boston have already created a very cool app called Street Bump that reports potholes when you hit them. Our new challenge to the civic geek community: an app for your companions that let's them report stray voltage. Come on, Code For America. We know you got this.