National Grid inspecting in Swampscott after dog survives electric-plate shock

A Swampscott dog was shocked after stepping on a National Grid handhole. (Christine Tierney)

SWAMPSCOTT — National Grid crews inspected handholes across town this weekend after a local woman’s dog suffered an electric shock when it stepped over a metal plate covering an electrical-utility compartment on Lincoln Circle.

Christine Tierney said she was out for her usual walk on Lincoln Circle with her dog Oscar early Thursday morning when her 100-pound Labrador let out a yelp.

“He yelped really, really loudly, I’d never heard him do that,” Tierney said. “He stepped on a metal plate with a big E on it and screamed and stumbled into the street. He was shaking.”

At first, Tierney said she thought her canine companion might have stepped on a bee or a nail. When Oscar was acting dazed and repeatedly shaking his head, she realized it was an electric shock.

Tierney called National Grid to report the electrified panel, and a technician arrived later in the day to inspect the utility pole and its adjacent panel. She said the National Grid technician told her Oscar was lucky to be alive.

“The technician who went out and put the voltage meter to the ground said that it was up to 90 volts of electricity that was running in a radius of three feet around the plate, and 50 (volts) is enough to kill a human,” Tierney said.

In an email to The Item, National Grid spokesperson Christine Milligan said that the Lincoln Circle handhole was replaced on Friday.

“Safety is our number-one priority and National Grid crews also inspected other handholes in the area on Friday,” Milligan said.

When asked how frequently safety concerns such as electrically-exposed handholes occur, Milligan responded: “We’re not commenting beyond the statement.”

Tierney said Oscar returned from an emergency visit to Atlantic Veterinary Hospital in Marblehead with a clean bill of health. Still, she said parents and pet owners should take caution when out walking near electrical equipment.

“They were replacing it with a plastic nonconductive liner, so I said to someone working there, ‘Is this a fluke? Is this something that you see, or are we just super unlucky?’ He said, ‘You’d be surprised how often this actually happens,’” Tierney said.

In the days following Oscar’s shock, Tierney said she received a call from Eight Essex District Rep. Jenny Armini, who told her that she would talk to National Grid leaders to ensure safety risks such as this are on their radar.

“Oscar is a 100-pound yellow Lab, he’s pretty sturdy,” Tierney said. “He’s pretty fortunate, but the National Grid man said that it could have been a really, really, really bad outcome had it been a kid, or a person not wearing shoes, or a small dog or cat.”

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