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The official voice of West Florida Electric Cooperative:

June 2023

Danger Surrounds Downed Power Lines

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What would you do if you encountered a downed power line? Because safety is our top priority, we want you to know what to do and what not to do if this happens.

Remember: There’s no way to tell if a downed line is still energized just by looking at it. Even on the ground, up to 500,000 volts of electricity can be coursing through it. Because electricity also travels through the ground, the earth can be energized up to 35 feet away in all directions from where the line has fallen.

That’s why you should always take the safest action by staying AWAY from downed power lines and anything touching them. Do not drive over a downed line, and never attempt to move a downed power line or anything in contact with it, including tree limbs. They can act as a conductor for electricity.

Even though your first instinct is to pull away a person who is in direct or indirect contact with the downed line, don’t touch them. Grab that person, and you could be electrocuted. Instead, grab a phone and call 911. It’s also dangerous to touch or step in water near a downed power line. Avoid using objects such as brooms or sticks to move a downed power line or anything in contact with it. Remember that non-conductive materials can carry electricity even if they’re only slightly wet.

Another situation you should prepare for involves your vehicle and downed lines. If your car comes into contact with a downed power line, remain inside the vehicle. The car will shield you. 

Call 911 for help, honk your horn and direct others to stay away from your car. Do not exit the vehicle until workers have de-energized the downed line and given you clearance. 

Remember, electricity always seeks a path to the ground. If you absolutely must exit your vehicle because it is on fire, minimize the possibility for a strong electric shock: Jump clear of the vehicle with both feet together, avoiding contact with both the car and the ground at the same time. Then, shuffle away from the car with small steps. Be sure to keep your feet together and on the ground at all times. 

We’re connecting you to safety, because we care about your well-being. Sharing these lifesaving tips could help others, too.