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Staying Safe Around Downed Power Lines: What You Need to Know

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Hello, folks! As an experienced electrician and blogger from the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve seen my share of stormy weather and the havoc it can wreak – particularly when it comes to downed power lines. With the increasing severity of storms due to climate change, it’s more important than ever to know how to safely handle this dangerous situation. Let’s go over some essential safety guidelines for navigating downed power lines.

Trees and Power Lines: A Risky Combo

After a storm, those beautiful trees in our neighborhoods can become a major safety hazard. Aging trees and their hefty branches can fall and bring down power lines, leading to not only power outages but also dangerous situations.

Understanding Power Line Safety

Before we dive into what to do around downed power lines, it’s crucial to understand some basics:

  • Electricity Flow: Electricity moves along conductors, and when it encounters a person, it can cause an electric shock.
  • Potential Difference (Voltage): This is key. Electricity flows from areas of high potential (voltage) to low potential. No potential difference, no current, and no shock.

Dealing with Downed Power Lines

When a power line is down, it creates an area with both high and low potential. The electricity spreads out from the cable into the ground, decreasing in voltage as it goes. But beware – stepping across different potential areas can be deadly due to ‘step potential.’

Arcing: Not Always a Clear Sign

Don’t be fooled – not all downed power lines show arcing or signs of danger. Some might look harmless but are incredibly dangerous. You can’t always trust your eyes; knowledge is your best defense.

Safety First: Dos and Don’ts

  • Assume It’s Live: Always treat a downed power line as if it’s energized. Stay well away from it.
  • Keep Your Distance: Stay at least 35 feet away (about the length of a bus). This is a general guideline to keep you safe.
  • Don’t Play the Hero: Never try to rescue someone or a pet near a downed power line. Call 911 or your utility company and let the professionals handle it.
  • Driving Dangers: Never drive over downed power lines. They can entangle with your vehicle and pose a serious threat.
  • Stay in Your Vehicle: If a power line falls on your car, stay inside until you’re sure it’s safe to exit. Follow instructions from emergency responders.
  • Jump and Shuffle: If you must evacuate, jump away from the vehicle, landing with both feet together. If you need to move away, shuffle with small steps, keeping your feet together.

In Conclusion

Dealing with downed power lines is serious business. Understanding the dangers and knowing how to react can be the difference between safety and catastrophe. Always prioritize safety and call in the pros when you encounter downed power lines. Stay safe out there, especially during storm season!

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