Avoid downed power lines!

May 2017 — Downed Power Line Safety — SM1Harry is heading home during a spring storm. It’s a particularly nasty one with high winds and lightning. As he arrives home, he comes across a downed pole and power line lying across his driveway. He’s tired and just wants to get safely to his home. He gets out of his vehicle and goes to pick up the power line to remove it from his driveway.

Has Harry done anything wrong? Were his actions safe? Indiana Electric Cooperatives reminds members to never touch downed power lines. The result could be deadly! The best course of action is to steer clear and call for assistance.

“Large overhead power lines can carry more than 700,000 volts of electricity,” said Tom VanParis, CEO of Indiana Electric Cooperatives. “Fatalities can occur when someone comes in contact with a live wire of only a couple hundred volts.”

While this scenario may be extreme, it underscores the importance of being safe around downed power lines. Harry’s first mistake was not calling 911 immediately to take care of the line. His second was assuming that the downed power line was not live.

Here are some helpful safety tips from your electric cooperative to stay safe around downed power lines:

  • If you see a downed power line, move away from it and anything touching it. Keep a distance of 35 feet, as the ground around downed power lines may be energized.
  • Assume ALL downed power lines are live.
  • If you see someone in direct or indirect contact with a downed line, DO NOT touch him/her. You could become energized as well. Call 911 for assistance.
  • NEVER attempt to move a downed power line or anything else in contact with it using an object such as a broom or stick. Non-conductive materials like wood or cloth can conduct electricity if slightly wet.
  • Don’t step in water near downed lines.
  • Never drive over a downed power line.
  • If your vehicle comes in contact with a downed power line while you’re in the vehicle, stay inside the car. Call 911 or honk your horn to get help, but tell those rendering aid to stay away from the vehicle.
  • If you must exit the vehicle for life-threatening reasons — jump out and away from it, making sure to land with your feet together and touching. Then, shuffle away with your feet touching until you reach a safe distance. NEVER attempt to get back into a vehicle that is in contact with a power line.

Indiana Electric Cooperatives stresses the importance of staying safe around electricity and downed power lines. It could save a life.

Source: Electrical Safety Foundation International

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