Insights > Don Breaux Uses a 10,000-degree Electrical Spark to Teach Power Line Safety

Don Breaux Uses a 10,000-degree Electrical Spark to Teach Power Line Safety


Entergy supervisor and volunteer fire chief says, 'If it saves one life, that is all that matters.'

When Don Breaux isn’t working to keep your lights on, he’s putting out fires and making sure fellow first responders stay safe around power lines.

Breaux works as a supervisor for Entergy Louisiana and in his off hours serves as chief of the Pierre Part Volunteer Fire Department.

Over the last 10 years, Breaux has used Entergy’s Arcs and Sparks safety demonstration to show first responders what can happen if they or their equipment come in contact with live electrical lines.

Given his 32 years as chief of the Pierre Part VFD, it’s easy to understand why Breaux has made it his mission to teach firefighters and other first responders across southeast Louisiana how to stay safe around electricity.

For Breaux, it’s personal too: his two daughters and their husbands are members of the Pierre Part VFD. One daughter works alongside him on the rescue squad and the other is department treasurer. His sons-in-law are firefighters.

Don Breaux

“Our job is to rescue patients, and there is no better feeling than saving a life. But we also want to keep our own safe and that is the main goal behind the training we do at Entergy,” Breaux said.

At a serious accident or fire, the instinct of firefighters and other first responders is to save lives, and they could rush in and overlook hazards like power lines, Breaux said. The Arcs and Sparks training reminds them to step back and check for potential dangers.

In Arcs and Sparks, Breaux or other trained Entergy employees pull an 8,000-volt electrical arc from a model of an energized distribution line using materials such as tree branches, fences and ladders. The dramatic result: a 10,000-degree arc in a fraction of a second that in real life could be a 10- to 20-foot ball of fire. The demonstration shows what can happen if a person comes in contact with a power line.

When training first responders, Breaux reviews hazardous scenarios such as using firefighting equipment around power lines or responding to accidents where vehicles have struck utility poles.

“If there are downed power lines, I tell them to stay a safe distance from the lines and immediately contact Entergy so a crew can de-energize the lines,” Breaux said.

Breaux has done more than 40 Arcs and Sparks demonstrations for more than 2,200 people since 2005.

“I’ve done demonstrations for kindergartens to councils on aging and everything in between. About half of the ones I do are for fire departments because I wear both hats. I know where they are coming from. I can relate to them,” Breaux said.

“I do it for my guys. If it pays off and saves just one life, that is all that matters,” he said.

Louisiana  LA Safety 
Michael Burns