Gotta catch ‘em all? Fine. Just be careful catching Pokémon around high voltage equipment.
On its Facebook page, Mississippi’s Coast EPA posted this cautionary note to Pokémon Go players. (Photo By: Coast EPA)
That’s the warning electric cooperatives and other utilities are sounding to players of Pokémon Go, the new smartphone-based augmented reality game in which players try to catch Pokémon in real world places.
Pokémon turn up everywhere—from the Pentagon to Hollywood Boulevard, from restaurants to gas stations. But they’re also appearing at substations, and that’s got utilities concerned.
“The reality game is drawing players into some dangerous situations,” Indiana Electric Cooperatives  warned.
The statewide urged players to “exercise extreme caution when playing this new global phenomenon,” adding that “electric utilities cannot control where the Pokémon appear, making it important for players to make sure they catch their Pokémon from a safe distance.”
At Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives,  Pat O’Loughlin, president and CEO, was blunt.
“Climbing a utility pole or a fence surrounding a substation is not only trespassing, it’s just plain dangerous,” O’Loughlin said. “Serious injury, or worse, is a likely result. Poles, substations, and transformers are for processing electricity—not for playing games.”
The Ohio statewide also said that some utilities have reported gamers following employees who have swiped an access card, into power plants, and it urged co-op staffers to be vigilant.
Singing River Electric’s Lorri Freeman found a virtual Pokémon outside a co-op substation. (Photo By: Lorri Freeman/Singing River Electric)
Nelle Hotchkiss, senior vice president of corporate relations for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives,  cautioned that entering a substation “is both a crime and incredibly dangerous.”
“Another capture is not worth the risk of serious injury,” Hotchkiss added.
Numerous co-ops have taken to social media to get the word out.
“Searching for the rarest of the rare in #PokémonGO? Well, we know one place NOT to look,” Fargo, N.D.-based Cass County Electric Cooperative  wrote on its Facebook page.
The post continues: “Entering electrical substations is both a crime and incredibly dangerous—NEVER attempt to gain access to one. Trust us. Zapdos isn’t in there. We checked.” It refers to Zapdos, a rare electric bird Pokémon which, in the original games, was found in a power plant.
Singing River Electric  posted on its Facebook page a screen shot of a Pokémon outside one of its substations.
“#PokémonGo players: Think safety first when playing the game. Stay away from substations and power lines at all times,” the Lucedale, Miss.-based co-op wrote.
Midwest Electric  in St. Marys, Ohio, tweeted, “Pokémon Go? Not around electrical substations, transformers, power poles, etc.”
Bud Branham, NRECA director of safety and loss prevention, encouraged co-ops to continue spreading the word to help protect members.
“Any game or activity that creates excitement and distracts people of the possible dangers around them—whether it’s our electrical facilities, traffic on a road, driving a vehicle—and at the same time potentially brings them in proximity to our electric equipment and lines, is a major concern for all us,” said Branham.