Old Man Winter can create some pretty severe storms, which can interfere with power distribution or even bring down lines.
What is the most important thing to remember about a downed power line?
DO NOT GO NEAR IT. For any reason.
After a storm has caused damage in or alongside a roadway, be alert and slow down. Do not attempt to drive over downed lines or through water or over snow or debris that could be covering downed lines. Driving over a line can pull more lines or related equipment down.
If you encounter a downed line, pull over and report location to 9-1-1.
Here is some additional information about downed lines, which can occur after a severe storm or an accident involving a power pole.
Q: Can I tell if a downed line is energized by looking?
A: No, there is no way to tell. Always assume a downed line (or any line) is live, even if it is not buzzing or sparking.
Q: What should I do if I am in an accident involving a power line or other electrical equipment?
A: DO NOT get out of your car or truck. It is always safer to remain inside a vehicle, which acts as an insulator and keeps you out of the path of stray electricity. Call 9-1-1, and tell the dispatcher a downed line or other electrical equipment is involved. Power company personnel will be dispatched to the scene to de-energize the power.
Q: Is there any reason I should get out of the vehicle?
A: Yes, but only when your vehicle is on fire or if you see smoke. If that is the case, make a clean jump from the vehicle without touching it (cross your arms closely to your chest), and then hop with feet together as far as you can—preferably 50 or more feet away.
Q: What happens to the electrical current when a line is down?
A: Once a power line is in contact with a car or truck, the ground or other objects, it energizes the area. The electrical current spreads to the vehicle and ground, and it ripples out. Each “ring” of the ripple represents a different voltage. Stepping from one voltage to the next can cause your body to become a path for electricity and electrocute you. That is why you should hop or shuffle once you make a clean jump from the vehicle. Always keep your feet together – think of hopping like a bunny or shuffling like a penguin.
Q: What else can I do?
A: Put your window down and yell to others not to approach the scene. They could be shocked or electrocuted if they walk or run over the energized area or touch anything that is energized.
Q: What if I can’t tell what type of line is down?
A: It doesn’t matter – still stay in your vehicle and wait for the utility personnel to arrive.
Q: Are there any other instances when these same safety tips apply?
A: Yes, the same rules apply to any type of equipment (e.g., farming and construction equipment) that comes in contact with overhead lines or electrical cabinets or equipment.
Q: So just to review, why am I safe in my vehicle?
A: Because you are not a path for electricity while in a vehicle.
Q: What should I do if the windshield is broken and the downed wire is in my car or truck?
A: Stay in the vehicle and do not touch or try to move the wire or attempt to use other objects to move the wire.
Q: What if I hit a pad-mounted transformer (metal cabinet or green box) in a yard?
A: Pad-mounted transformers house electrical equipment connected to underground power lines. The same safety precautions apply to all to these cabinets and the voltage that could stray when damaged.
For more information about staying safe around electricity, go to safeelectricity.org