Stay safe: what to do around downed power lines

Tropical Storm Irma is bringing heavy winds with the strength to down trees and power lines. Although they are on the ground, they can still carry an electric current strong enough to cause serious injury or possibly even death. The following tips can keep you safe around downed lines:

  • If you see a downed power line, move away from the line and anything touching it. The human body is a ready conductor of electricity.
  • The proper way to move away from the line is to shuffle away with small steps, keeping your feet together and on the ground at all times. This will minimize the potential for a strong electric shock. Electricity wants to move from a high voltage zone to a low voltage zone and it could do that through your body.
  • If you see someone who is in direct or indirect contact with the downed line, do not touch the person. You could become the next victim. Call 911 instead.
  • Do not attempt to move a downed power line or anything in contact with the line by using another object such as a broom or stick. Even non-conductive materials like wood or cloth, if slightly wet, can conduct electricity and then electrocute you.
  • Be careful not to put your feet near water where a downed power line is located.
  • If you are in your car and it is in contact with the downed line, stay in your car. Tell others to stay away from your vehicle.
  • If you must leave your car because it's on fire, jump out of the vehicle with both feet together and avoid contact with the live car and the ground at the same time. This way you avoid being the path of electricity from the car to the earth. Shuffle away from the car.
  • Do not drive over downed lines.

 

Safety info from publications.usa.gov.

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