Indiana linemen work with high-voltage power lines every day as they restore power and maintain lines to prevent outages. But they use personal protection equipment to stay safe. Everyone else should avoid contact with power lines.
Large overhead power lines can carry more than 700,000 volts of electricity. Fatalities can occur when someone comes in contact with a live wire of only a couple hundred volts.
When a worker — or his or her crane, ladder or other equipment — bumps against a cable while touching the ground, he or she will be shocked. Electric current flows out of the power line and through the victim. Electricity strays from power lines only when it has a direct path to the ground. It moves from high-voltage zones to low-voltage zones, and it easily could do that through your body.
Protect yourself by following these power line safety tips.
- Never touch a downed power line or go close to one.
- When spending time outdoors this summer, enjoy kites, balloons and remote-controlled toys away from overhead electrical lines. But if something does become caught in a power line, call your electric cooperative to report the problem. Never try to retrieve anything on your own near a live power line.
- Never climb or trim trees near power lines. Contact your electric cooperative. Its professional tree-trimming service will work around the live wires.
- As you are working around your house, make sure to look up before carrying tall ladders and tools to prevent contact with power lines.
According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, tens of thousands of accidents each year occur when power poles are struck by cars or large equipment. Each one of these accidents has the potential to bring down power lines. Surviving the accident itself might not be enough to stay alive without awareness of the right moves to make.
Exit your vehicle after the accident only if the car is on fire. Otherwise, the car is the safest place to be. Exiting the car can create a path for current to flow.
If someone stops to help, roll down the window and warn him or her not to touch the car or the power line and to stay in the car. Even if the fallen power lines are not sparking, they can kill you if you touch them or the nearby ground. Always assume the lines could be energized. Wait in your car until your cooperative’s qualified electrical workers turn off the power and tell you it’s safe to leave the car.
If you need to leave the car because of fire or other danger, open the door and jump away from the vehicle so no part of your body touches the vehicle and the ground at the same time. Make sure to jump with both feet together so that your feet land on the ground at the same time. After you land with both feet together, shuffle away, keeping both feet constantly in contact with the ground. This will minimize the potential for strong electric shock.
If you come witness an accident involving toppled power poles and lines, do not try to help someone from the vehicle. If you do, you may become a path for electricity and could be injured or killed.
Sources: Slate, Electrical Safety Foundation International, Straight Talk