Downed power lines represent a universal threat that can we can encounter at any time without warning. While we tend to associate them with natural disasters or large storms, something as minor as a car crashing into a power pole or a tree falling into overhead lines can cause them to snap and put us in danger. Here are a few tips on what to do if a downed power line is posing an imminent threat in order to reduce the chances of being electrocuted.
Use Non-Conductive Material
If you are trying to rescue someone who is in contact with a live wire, separate them by using a non-conductive object such as a dry branch, table or wooden chair. Try to push or pull them away from the affected area, and do not touch them until you know they are no longer in contact with the current. Rubberized gloves will not protect you from getting shocked, so don’t be lulled into a false sense of security if you’re wearing them at the time.
Do not touch a vehicle that has come into contact with a downed power line, unless you’re safely grounded. Even if the line is no longer live, or if it is no longer touching the vehicle, keep your hands off. The vehicle can retain an electrical charge long after the source has been removed, and you can become seriously injured or even killed from the shock.
If you’re inside of the vehicle, stay put unless your life is in imminent danger and you need to escape. Call for help, wait for qualified and equipped rescuers to get you out, and keep good Samaritans who are coming to your aid away from the vehicle as well. Warn them that they may be electrocuted if they get too close.
If you need to escape, you want to find a way to get out without coming into contact with the body of the vehicle. You also want to try and land with both feet hitting the ground at the same time. Finally, walk away by shuffling instead of lifting your feet off of the ground so that you’re permanently grounded until you can get away from the danger zone. Since this requires a certain degree of confidence, agility and acrobatics, use this as an option of last-resort if at all possible.
Never assume that a downed power line is safe, even if it doesn’t produce any sparks or flames. You also want to make sure that you’re not handling tree limbs or branches that may be in contact with downed lines as well. Wood can conduct electricity if wet, and even branches that are damp or partly-dry can still be dangerous. It’s also important to remember that electricity can travel outward across the ground. You can be shocked even if you’re around 10 feet away from the source. Always keep a safe distance, and never approach a hot zone unless you’re properly-grounded.
Always err on the side of caution when coming across downed power lines unless conditions necessitate that you need to act. While you may feel helpless until help arrives, you can avoid making mistakes that may end up killing you or someone else. If you want to be in a position to do something, take a more in-depth look at how to approach and handle emergencies associated with downed power lines so that you can act without making mistakes.
The bottom line is that downed power lines are killers, and we need to treat them with respect and extreme caution. People die from being careless, and you don’t want to be one of them.