Downed & dangerous: tips for downed power line safety

Downed power lines are downright dangerous. A high-voltage power line carries an electric current strong enough to cause serious injury. It can even be deadly. 

That’s why it’s important to know how to respond if a power line goes down in extreme weather or an accident. Your reaction can be the difference between life and death.  

If you come across a low or fallen line, use the following tips to keep yourself safe.

Downed power lines tend to occur during monsoons, but those aren’t the only dangers. Here are 5 ways to prepare for monsoons.

Know what to look for

A fully charged, lethal power line can look like any wire or cable if it doesn’t have a coating. If you see any wires lying around after a storm (or anytime for that matter), don’t touch them.

Stay away and call 911

After a wild monsoon storm passes through, it’s natural to want to inspect the damage. If you see a downed or sagging line, however, don’t let your curiosity take over.

Keep a safe distance from power lines and call 911.

Keep a two-semi truck-length distance between you and a downed line

When a live wire touches the ground, electricity fans out and energizes the area. To keep yourself from getting shocked or worse, stay at least 100 feet, or the length of two semitrucks, away.  

Make it even further during rainy conditions, as water can become energized.

Assume all downed power lines are live

You can’t tell if a line is energized just by looking at it. Assume it’s live and dangerous, even if the line isn’t sparking, humming or “dancing.”  

Remember: The safest place for you to be is far away – and on the phone with 911, of course. 

Don’t touch anything near a downed power line

If for some reason you do find yourself near a downed power line, don’t touch anything in contact with or near it. That includes debris, trees, tree limbs, cars, ladders and people.  

The electrical current can travel through both conductive and non-conductive materials, along the ground, through water and even through people. You could be shocked through contact with a secondary object or a person.  

The only thing you should be touching at this point is your cellphone to call 911.

Shuffle (don’t walk) away

If you happen to come across a downed power line, the safest way to put distance between you and it is to shuffle. 

Make sure to keep both feet on the ground at all times. Although it may look funny, it will minimize your chances of getting shocked. 

Once you’ve reached a safe distance away from the power line, call 911.

Protect your little ones

If a storm or accident leads to downed power lines, make sure you know where your children and pets are so you can keep them far from fallen lines.  

This includes staying away from unexpected places like your backyard, recreational fields and even puddles, as water can become energized if it comes into contact with electricity.

Remember the steps before you step! What to do if a line falls on your car.

You should never drive over downed power lines or through water that’s in contact with them. However, accidents happen.  

Here’s what to do if a power line falls on your car while you’re in it:

  • Call 911 and remain in your car until help arrives, unless it becomes unsafe (think water, smoke or flames). 
  • If you must leave, avoid making contact with the vehicle and ground at the same time. 
  • Jump from your vehicle, landing with both feet together.  
  • Shuffle or hop away, keeping both feet in contact with each other until you are at least 100 feet from the vehicle. If you run, your legs may bridge current from areas of high and low voltage, resulting in electric shock. 

Virginia-based Dominion Energy made a really great video that demonstrates how to do the steps listed above.

When power lines go down, we’re on the scene

At SRP, we take proactive steps to make sure we’re ready to serve our customers before, during and after extreme weather. 

We purchase supplies well in advance of storm season so we’re ready to replace poles, lines and other electrical equipment.  

Right before a storm, our meteorologists track where a storm is going so crews can be prepared. During a storm, our grid operators work to isolate outages and downed lines so crews can turn off power and first responders can do their jobs safely. 

After a storm, our teams work as safely and quickly as possible to repair downed power lines and restore your power.

Interested in more safety tips for emergency situations? Prepare for the unexpected with these guidelines for electrical emergencies.   

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