Q: What do I do if I see downed power lines on the ground or touching a guard rail? How do I know if they are energized?
A: Most overhead power lines are not insulated so, when lines from a utility pole fall to the ground or on a guard rail, assume they are energized and dangerous. Energized lines can be deceiving by appearing lifeless and harmless. Don’t touch these lines! Stay a safe distance away — at least 30 feet or more!
A live wire touching the ground causes electricity to fan out in a pool, decreasing in strength as it travels away from the center. A downed line touching a fence or guard rail can energize it for several thousand yards. This poses a danger to anyone coming into contact with these structures.
Running from a fallen line may cause your legs to bridge current from higher to lower voltage and you may receive a shock. Instead, keep your legs together and shuffle away with both feet on the ground. Shuffle a safe distance (10 feet or more) away from other utility poles.
If someone is in contact with a fallen line or guard rail, do not try to rescue them because electrical current can travel through them to you and you risk becoming a victim yourself. Warn others to stay away.
As in all power line-related emergencies, call for help immediately by dialing 911 or call your electric utility company’s Trouble Line at the number(s) listed on pages 71-77.
Q: What if the downed power line is touching the car while I’m in it?
A: A car touching a downed line will become energized. If a power line falls on your car while you are inside, follow these instructions:
Remain where you are, if possible, and wait for help.
If you must get out of the car because of a fire or some other hazard, jump free of the car, hopping with both feet together so that your body clears the vehicle before touching the ground.
The driver should never step down or simultaneously touch the ground and equipment that is in contact with the power line, as this will increase the risk of electric shock.
Once you clear the car, shuffle at least 10 feet away, with both feet on the ground as described above.
As in all power line related emergencies, call for help immediately by dialing 911 or call your electric utility company’s Trouble Line at the number(s) listed on pages 71-77.