Practicing Power Line Safety
See those power lines running overhead? There are thousands of volts coursing through them, or even hundreds of thousands in the case of high-voltage transmission lines. That’s enough to cause death by electrocution, as well as serious electric shocks and burns.
When power lines are secured to electrical poles and maintained in good condition, they’re safe as long as you keep a distance of several feet. But when power lines fall or there’s a malfunction with local lines or transformers, you may need to keep a greater distance and take great care in how you escape to safety.
Work and Play Safely
Here are a few things you should never do near power lines:
- Climb trees
- Fly kites
- Operate drones or remote controlled aircraft
- Carry or release helium balloons, especially mylar balloons
- Retrieve items that get stuck
- Use a ladder or trim trees at a distance less than 10 feet
Keep Clear of Downed Power Lines
You should never touch a downed power line, even with a non-conductive object like a wooden stick. It’s best to stay at least 15 yards away from a downed power line, because the ground may be electrified. The voltage on the ground is highest in the immediate area, but dangerous levels of voltage can radiate for several yards in every direction.
If you’re in the vicinity of a downed power line and you feel a tingling sensation, stop immediately, place your feet together and shuffle or hop to safety. Do not touch anything with your hands.
When you are in a safe location, call 911 or your local electrical utility to report the situation.
Power Line Safety When Driving
If you are driving a vehicle that comes into contact with a downed power line, you are usually safe as long as you remain in your vehicle. If you’re able to safely drive, slowly drive at least 15 yards away from the downed lines and any nearby pools of water. If you cannot safely drive away, remain in your vehicle until help arrives.
If you must leave the vehicle due to immediate danger (such as a vehicle fire), jump out of the vehicle with your feet together and without touching the car and ground at the same time. Shuffle or hop away to a safe distance, at least 15 yards from the vehicle.
Call Before You Dig
Not all power lines are overhead. In some areas, they’re buried underground. If you’re planning any project that involves digging on your property, call 811 a few days in advance and tell the operator about your digging project. They’ll send surveyors from electrical, gas, water, sewer and other utilities to mark the locations of buried lines and pipes on your property.
If you fail to call ahead and accidentally strike a buried power line during digging, the results could be fatal. You could also be held liable for expensive damages.