Winter storms can create hazardous driving conditions and there is always a potential for increased vehicle accidents. Knowing what to do if you are involved in a vehicle accident with a utility pole or downed wires can be a matter of life or death. The most important thing to keep in mind is that just because they've been knocked down, powerlines can still be fully energized.
“Keeping your distance from downed power lines and knowing what to do if you see one are the first steps to safety,” said Jared Boggs, Safety Coordinator at Northeastern REMC. “There is no way of knowing whether a power line is still live and if you happen to touch one or get too close to one that is, consequences could be deadly.”
If you see a downed power line, the first step is to move away from it and anything touching it. Keep a distance of 35 feet because the ground around downed power lines may be energized. But if you are in a car, the first step is to stay put.
If power lines fall on the car, the car can become energized. People who are safe inside will remain safe — as long as they stay put. Opening a door and stepping out can kill the person leaving the car. Even if power lines are not on the vehicle, they could be hanging low. Fallen power lines are hard to see against trees and foliage, especially at night. Anyone stepping from a car might walk into an energized line and also be electrocuted.
Here are some other basic tips for safety:
- If you see someone in direct or indirect contact with a downed line, DO NOT touch him or her. Call 911 for assistance.
- NEVER attempt to move a downed power line or anything else in contact with it using an object such as a broom or stick.
- If your vehicle comes in contact with a downed power line while you’re in the vehicle, stay inside the car. Call 911 or honk your horn to get help. Tell bystanders to stay away from the vehicle.
- If you must exit the vehicle for life-threatening reasons, such as if the car has caught on fire — jump out and clear from it, making sure to land with your feet together. Make sure you do not touch the car and the ground at the same time. Then, shuffle away with your feet touching until you reach a safe distance.
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