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It’s Alive! Downed Power Line Safety Steps

After a strong storm or hurricane rolls through your town, there can be extensive damage to trees, power lines, and buildings. You may encounter downed power lines in the road, on sidewalks, or in your own driveway. For your safety, always treat downed power lines as though they are live. Downed power lines can carry thousands of amps of electric current, strong enough to damage equipment, start fires, cause serious personal injury or even electrocution and death. Even if lines are not sparking or humming, fallen power lines can potentially electrocute you if you touch them or the ground nearby.

Downed power lines can also energize other nearby objects, like fences, water pipes, bushes and trees, buildings, and other telephone or fiber optic cables. Even manhole castings and reinforcement bars (rebar) in pavement can become energized by downed power lines. During storms, wind-blown objects such as canopies, aluminum roofs, siding, and sheds can also be energized by downed power lines.

For your safety and the safety of those around you, CED’s expert engineers recommend you take these steps if you come across a low or fallen power line:

  • Move away from the power line and anything touching it. The ground around power lines – up to 35 feet away – may be energized.
  • To move away from the power line, shuffle away with small steps, keeping your feet together and on the ground at all times. This will minimize the ‘step potential’ for a strong electric shock.
  • Report any downed power line you may see by calling your local utility company or emergency personnel.
  • If you are in a vehicle and downed power lines are on the car or across the road, stay in your car until emergency crews arrive to handle the power lines.
  • Don't drive over downed lines, and if a downed line is in or near water, keep your distance from the water – even a little puddle.
  • Stay as far away as possible from all fallen tree limbs and power lines, as well as anything they are touching.

Always assume a downed power line is live and leave it to the professionals to safely move the power lines and any objects caught in the power lines. Electricity wants to return to its source  – and it could do that through your body. CED’s engineers are experienced with evaluating mishaps possibly caused by downed electrical power lines as well as other types of electrical damage including electrical fires.

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