In the movies, a downed powerline sparks and flails around dramatically and it’s an obvious hazard. But danger around powerlines isn’t always so obvious.
When you see a downed powerline, it won’t necessarily “look” like it’s energized and dangerous. Don’t hesitate to call 911. Even if you’re wrong and it’s either not energized or not even a powerline (they are often confused with telephone lines), that’s OK. We’d much rather get called to a non-hazardous situation and find it safe than NOT get called to a dangerous situation and someone gets hurt.
After you call 911 about that downed powerline, keep yourself and others safe. Never ever, EVER touch a downed powerline. Stay at least 35 feet away from it – if it’s energized, it can actually electrify the ground around it. If you find yourself too close, shuffle your feet away from the scene – if you walk normally, the electricity could flow up one leg and down the other.
Even better, though, let’s work to prevent powerline dangers by being aware of the electrical infrastructure around us. Many of the injuries related to powerlines don’t happen because someone simply finds a downed line – it’s because they damaged that line themselves. Instead:
- Look Up and Live – if you are planting trees, make sure that as the tree grows, it will stay at least 10 feet from powerlines – otherwise, it will have to be trimmed back or even removed. If you are trimming a tree, make sure no powerlines are going through it! If you are carrying a ladder or an irrigation pipe or are using large machinery, before you raise anything into the air, LOOK UP. You might be surprised how many fiber outages, power outages and injuries could have been prevented if someone just looked up.
- Call Before You Dig – there’s more than a football field’s length of buried utilities for every person in the U.S. That’s something you NEVER want to hit with a shovel. Call 811 or go online to www.washington811.com at least two days before you dig and utilities – water, electric, cable, etc. - will come for free to mark their lines with color-coded spray paint.