Avoid downed power lines

Downed power line

If you drive the same route to work every day, odds are you don’t give the road itself a lot of thought. It’s always there; until it’s not. If you suddenly come upon a big orange “road closed” sign with barricades, what do you do? You stop, think about an alternative route, and take it.

Consider overhead power lines much the same way as a closed road. Power lines are always perched tightly to their poles serving their purpose; until they’re not. When they are suddenly somewhere they’re not supposed to be, consider it an orange barricade – a warning sign to stop and reconsider your plans.

Power lines can fall during strong winds. Utility poles can topple, or trees and broken limbs can fall and take power lines down with them. Vehicles that crash into poles can also bring power lines to the ground. When you see a power line out of place, Indiana Electric Cooperatives reminds you to never touch it; never approach it. The result could be deadly! The best course of action is to steer clear and call for assistance.

“The overhead power lines that run along the county roads generally carry 7,200 volts of electricity,” said John Cassady, CEO of Indiana Electric Cooperatives. “Fatalities can occur when someone makes contact with a live wire of only a couple hundred volts.”

Helpful tips to stay safe around downed power lines

  • If you see a downed power line, move away from it. Keep a distance of 35 feet, as the ground around downed power lines may be energized.
  • Don’t touch anything touching downed power lines.
  • Assume ALL downed power lines are live. They don’t have to be arcing, sparking or humming; they can be as quiet as they usually are.
  • If you see someone in direct or indirect contact with a downed line, DO NOT touch him or her. You could become energized as well. Call 911 for assistance.
  • NEVER attempt to move a downed power line or anything else in contact with it, even with an object such as a broom or a tree branch. Non-conductive materials like wood or cloth can conduct electricity if even slightly wet.
  • Don’t step in water near downed lines.
  • Never drive over a downed power line.

What to do when a downed power line touches your vehicle

If your vehicle comes in contact with a downed power line while you’re in the vehicle, stay inside the car. Call 911 or honk your horn to get help, but tell those rendering aid to stay away from the vehicle. 

If you must exit the vehicle for life-threatening reasons, jump out and away from it. Make sure to land with your feet together and touching. Then, shuffle away with your feet touching until you reach a safe distance. NEVER attempt to get back into a vehicle that is in contact with a power line.