Stray Voltage: Definition
"Stray voltage" (SV) is voltage on an object that should not be energized, including lamp posts, manholes, gratings and junction boxes as well as non-metallic objects such as sidewalks and adjacent buildings. These "energized or electrified objects" create a public risk, exposing pedestrians to harmful and potentially lethal levels of electric current. Most often the cause or source of stray voltage is a failure in the power delivery infrastructure (for example,exposed wiring in underground power lines).
Though Con Edison (New York City’s power utility) was well aware of the risks of stray voltage, it took the electrocution of Jodie Lane in 2004 to compel the utility, and their regulator, the Public Service Commission (PSC), to implement a formal detection program. The first ever manual scan of all Con Edison assets after Jodie's death in 2004 demonstrated that stray voltage is an endemic problem in New York City. Over the last 6 years, primarily due to the advocacy and vigilance of Roger Lane (Jodie’s father), Con Edison and the Public Service Commission have slowly responded to the facts on the ground and increased the frequency and effectiveness of stray voltage scans.
Stray voltage continues to present a serious risk to public safety in New York City (and beyond); the data makes this clear. Fixing the root cause of this problem (the power delivery infrastructure) is a long-term project, one which Con Edison, the PSC and NYC’s Department of Transportation (whose property is often the problem) have shown little interest in advancing. However, making the public safer, today, can be achieved through a three step plan to: look for stray voltage frequently using the most effective methodology, find or identify stray voltage using consistent procedures, and mitigate [or prove safe] stray voltage whenever it is found, regardless of the number of volts.