What Do I Do If I Encounter a Downed Power Line?

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What Do I Do If I Encounter a Downed Power Line?

Unfortunately, there seem to be many stories about people killed because of a downed  power line.

We hear too often of a vehicle that hit a power pole and the lines landed on the vehicle, making that vehicle a path to ground. The people inside the car decide to get away as quickly as they can, and they make the mistake of stepping out instead of jumping out with feet together.

A different scenario took place in Texas last year, made even more tragic because of the circumstances. Two young brothers died when they got too close to a downed power line in a remote, wooded area near a public park. A recent storm had passed through the city many hours before, but the utility did not know the lines had fallen. No one had reported that the lines were down or that there was a power outage in the area.

If you encounter a downed power line, here are important things to remember:

  1. Until someone from the utility company tells you the power is off, assume the power line is still live.
  2. If you’re in your vehicle, stay in the vehicle (if it is not on fire) until the power is off and you can safely exit.
  3. If the vehicle is on fire, jump away from the vehicle with your feet together. Don’t touch the ground and the vehicle at the same time.
  4. Shuffle away from the vehicle with your feet touching. Hopping away with feet together is sometimes advised; however, hopping can also increase your chances of losing your balance and falling. (If you fall, you then create another path to ground since two parts of your body will be touching the ground at the same time.)
  5. Shuffle until you are at least 30 feet or more away from the line.

Several videos pertaining to safety around downed power lines exist on the web. The video here is one we’ve made available a couple of times in previous posts.  The message bears repeating.

Also check your utility’s website for information on how to stay safe around power lines.


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Hugh Hoagland

does research and testing of PPE exposed to electrical arcs and is an arc flash expert. Hugh is a Sr. Consultant at ArcWear and Sr. Partner at e-Hazard. Read more about Hugh.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Chuck Hendry

    Thanks Hugh, I use the Puget Sound video when I am instructing people outside of our utility, its a little funny but it drives home the reality of the situation.

    1. Hugh Hoagland
      Hugh Hoagland

      One of the best we’ve ever seen. It is for the public but really drives the points home and explains the concepts VERY well.

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