How avoiding downed power lines can save lives - FOX Carolina 21

How avoiding downed power lines can save lives

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Downed power lines (FOX Carolina/ April 5, 2016) Downed power lines (FOX Carolina/ April 5, 2016)
Todd Carter (Source: ECSC) Todd Carter (Source: ECSC)

As Hurricane Matthew passes South Carolina, electric company officials have 5 tips to help keep those around downed power lines safe, and potentially save lives.

Todd Carter knows all too well the risks that arise during and after a hurricane moves through an area. Carter is a veteran utility operations manager who worked in many potentially dangerous situations. He also serves as vice president of loss control and training for the state association of electric cooperatives, and his department is responsible for training new electric line workers.

The following are 5 tips Carter shared to help others stay safe around power lines:

  • Assume all power lines are energized and dangerous. Even lines that are de-energized could become energized at any time. A live wire touching the ground can cause electricity to travel through the ground, radiating outward from the contact point.

“There is simply no way to tell whether a line on the ground is dead or energized,” said Carter. “Even trained linemen can’t tell without specialized equipment.

  • Never touch a downed power line. And never touch a person or object that is touching a power line.

“I’ve seen trees leaning on a power line, and I know those trees are hot (energized). The sap in the tree is an excellent conductor of electricity,” said Carter.

  • If someone is injured as a result of electric contact, do not try to assist him or her. You could be injured or killed. Call 911 or your electric utility company.

“That’s a hard one, especially if it's someone you know. But the fact is, there’s a good chance you’ll become a victim yourself if you touch someone who has made an electrical contact,” Carter said. “In fact the scene from the movies is right: you may not be able to turn the victim loose even if you wanted to. Your muscles are contracted and you can’t move them.”

  • If a power line falls across your vehicle while you are in it, stay inside until help arrives.

Warn others to stay away from the vehicle. If your vehicle is on fire and you must exit, jump clear so that no part of your body is touching the car when your feet touch the ground. While keeping both feet together, shuffle or hop until you are at least 30 feet away.

Carter said to keep your feet together as you jump away from the energized car. He explained that if your feet are apart, electricity may run through your body.

  • Report the downed line. Call 911 immediately to report a downed power line or call your electric utility.

Carter says he'll never forget the image of a man who died after touching an energized power line.

"These tips aren’t just good ideas," Carter said of the tips he shared. "They’re lifesavers.” 

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