Live Wire Safety
You’re driving alone on a rural road when you lose control of your vehicle and collide with a utility pole. When the smoke clears, you see a downed power line lying across the hood of your car.
Do you know how to get to safety?
In 2017 alone, there were 298 auto-related incidents involving our power equipment in our service territory, including collisions with utility poles that downed power lines. If your vehicle comes in contact with a downed power line, you’re in extreme danger: Your vehicle and the ground around you is now energized and can electrocute you.
Don’t panic! The situation is serious, but by keeping calm and following the steps below, you and your passengers can stay safe.
Never touch your vehicle and the ground or two different areas of the ground at the same time.
- If you don’t have to leave your car, don’t. Instruct bystanders to stay back at least 50 feet. Call (or have the bystanders call) FreeState at 800-794-1989, as well as 911.
- If the situation changes and you must leave your vehicle, first open your vehicle door, but do not step out.
- Stand up on the edge of your vehicle’s doorframe, then cross your arms and jump free of the vehicle without touching it. Keep your feet together, and land on both feet at the same time.
- Hop with both feet together or take small shuffle-steps (keeping both feet in contact with the ground at all times) until you are about 50 feet away from the downed line.
- Do not lift one foot from the ground at a time, take large steps or crawl. Keep your hands off the ground at all times.
- If you can feel tingling in your legs, hop or shuffle another 50 feet away. Repeat until the tingling sensation stops.
Often, when we undertake outdoor activities, we don’t even think about power lines. Taking a few moments to become aware of your surroundings is a critical step to keeping yourself and your loved ones safe.
Safe Electricity encourages everyone to follow these guidelines as they prepare to work outdoors this year:
- Look up and around you. Always be aware of the location of power lines, particularly when using long metal tools, like ladders, pool skimmers, and pruning poles. Lower your long equipment when moving it. Carry ladders and other long items horizontally.
- Be careful when working on or around your roof, installing rooftop antennas and satellite dishes, doing roof repair work or cleaning gutters. Never go up on the roof in bad weather.
- Be especially careful when working near power lines attached to your house.
- Never trim trees near power lines – leave that to the professionals. Never use water or blower extensions to clean gutters near electric lines. Contact a professional maintenance contractor.
- Never climb trees near power lines. Even if the power lines aren’t touching the tree, they could touch when more weight is added to the branch.
- If your projects include digging, like building a deck or planting a tree, call your local underground utility locator before you begin. Never assume the location or depth of underground utility lines. This service is free, prevents the inconvenience of having utilities interrupted, and can help you avoid serious injury.
Another instance when people often come in contact with power lines is through vehicle crashes. In accidents that bring down power lines, our instincts tell us to flee danger. However, it’s almost always best to stay in your vehicle and wait for help. Call 9-1-1 and wait until the utility arrives and ensures the area is de-energized.
If you must get out because of fire or another danger, jump clear of the vehicle without touching it and the ground simultaneously. Then hop with feet together —don’t run or stride. Electricity spreads through the ground in ripples, like a stone dropped in water. The voltage is highest in the ring closest to the vehicle and decreases with distance. Hop with feet together, so one foot won’t be in a higher voltage zone than another, which could make you a conductor for electricity.
If you come upon, or witness an accident involving toppled power poles and lines, don’t leave your vehicle to approach the accident scene. Often, our inclination is to step in and help those in danger and offer assistance to the injured. However, in accidents involving power poles, the best thing you can do is call for help. Wait for trained assistance to arrive, or you could become an additional victim needing rescue.