Downed Power Lines – Why They’re Dangerous & How To Stay Safe

Top safety tips for downed power lines: Call 9-1-1; never drive over them or move them; downed electrical cables can energize the ground up to 35 feet away; ‘shuffle’ away, using small steps and with feet always on the ground

Downed Power Lines: Why They're Dangerous & How To Stay Safe

Downed power lines pose one of the greatest risks of electrical shock injury and electrocution.

We see these kinds of disasters far too often.

As an attorney who has devoted my 43-year legal career to helping people whose lives have been turned upside down and forever altered by electrocution-related tragedies, I believe we cannot emphasize too often the dangers and, importantly, the steps we can all take to stay safe.

As such, I’m sharing some excellent advice from the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), whose insightful blog post, “Downed Power Line Safety – Downed and Dangerous,” reminds us of the following:

  • “Downed power lines can be deadly. ALWAYS assume that they are live and avoid going near it or anything in contact with it.”
  • “Downed power lines can energize the ground up to 35 feet away.”
  • “If you see one, immediately notify local authorities” by calling 9-1-1.
  • “Never drive over downed lines or through water that is in contact with them.”
  • “Never try to move one. Even using items that typically are not conductive will not prevent injury or death.”
  • “The safe way to move away from a downed line is to shuffle away with small steps, keeping your feet together and on the ground at all times.”
  • “If someone comes in contact with one or something else that has become electrified, call 9-1-1 immediately.”
  • “Never touch someone who has come in contact with a power line. They are energized and pose a danger to anyone who comes in contact with them.”
  • “Remember power lines don’t have to fall in order to be dangerous. Always call 8-1-1 [“Miss Dig”] before you dig and keep yourself and your equipment at least 10 feet from overhead power lines.”

What to do if downed power lines make contact with your car?

As luck may have it, I recently wrote on the Electrocution Lawyer blog about how people can stay safe if a downed line makes contact with their car and what they should – and should not – do if the downed line causes their car to catch fire.

I also agree with EFSI’s sound advice:

  • “If your car comes in contact with a downed line while you are inside, stay in the car. Do not touch any part of the car’s frame or any other metal. Use a cell phone or honk your horn to summon help. Allow only rescue personnel to approach the car.”
  • “If your car is in contact with a downed line and you must exit due to fire or another imminent threat: Do not touch your vehicle and the ground at the same time with any part of your body or clothing; open the door to your vehicle without touching the metal door frame; jump out of the vehicle with both feet together and so both feet land at the same time; shuffle away so that the toe of one foot shuffles forward along the length of the other foot, ensuring that both feet are in constant contact and always touching the ground.”
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