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Stay Safe Around Downed Lines

Students get to school in a variety of ways—riding a bus, being driven by a family member, carpooling, walking, or even driving themselves. Electricity is not usually the first thing on a student’s or driver’s mind on the way to school. Yet, it is vitally important to know what to do if there is a downed line or an accident with a power pole along that journey. Here are some tips that can help keep students and those who help transport them to and from school safe.

In April 2016, CBS News reported that a Pennsylvania school bus driver asked an 11-year-old student to move a downed power line. Sadly, the boy’s hand was burned, but fortunately he was not more seriously hurt. In 2009, two Indiana teenagers, Ashley Taylor and Lee Whitaker, were in a car accident with a utility pole. Fortunately, just days earlier, these teens had seen a presentation about electrical safety at their school and had learned to stay in the car if in such a situation. Lee and Ashley’s lives were saved because they knew what to do. Severe storms, high winds, and vehicular accidents with power poles can all cause power lines to fall. Just because a power line is down does not mean that it is not carrying electricity.

While downed lines can sometimes show they are live by arcing and sparking, this is not always the case. Treat all down lines as though they are energized, and stay far away from them. Call 911 to have first responders and the utility notified of the downed power lines.

If you are in a vehicle that wrecks with a power pole, the vehicle may be charged with electricity. If this is the case and you step out of the car, you will become the electricity’s path to the ground and could be electrocuted. Stay in the vehicle, and tell others to do the same. Call 911 to have emergency and utility services notified. Do not leave your vehicle until a utility professional has told you it is safe.

The only circumstance when you should exit the vehicle is if it is on fire – which is a rare occurrence. If you must exit, jump clear of it with your feet together and without touching the vehicle and ground at the same time. Continue to “bunny hop” with your feet together to safety. Doing this will ensure that you will not have different strengths of electric current running from one foot to another.

If you come upon or witness an accident involving power lines, do not approach the accident scene. If you see someone approaching, warn them to stay away from the accident until utility professionals and emergency responders have confirmed that there are no electrical dangers.