Beware of Damaged Power Equipment: Energy can Spread like Ripples on a Pond
The transmission and distribution of power is safe and reliable much of the time.
However, storms, critters and car accidents can damage energized utility equipment such as power lines, poles and pad-mounted transformers (green boxes). Not only can this cause minor inconveniences, like service interruptions and road closures, it can also create life-threatening situations when energy invisibly spreads like ripples on a pond.
Here is what can occur when utility equipment is damaged:
- Step potential happens when a person walks from one voltage “ripple” to another, and their feet experience a difference in voltage.
- Touch potential happens when someone touches something at one voltage and steps on or contacts something else at a different voltage.
Both types of potential can cause serious internal and external injuries and death since electric current enters the body at one point and exits at another.
How to Stay Safe
Take precautions near downed power lines, poles or other damaged power equipment. Always assume damaged power equipment is energized; it can look lifeless and harmless and still be live.
Besides accidents, storms and animal interferences, another hazardous situation may occur when equipment or extensions get too close to or contact power equipment. To stay safe around damaged utility equipment:
- Stay inside your vehicle or cab.
- Call 911.
- Report damaged power equipment to a dispatcher.
- Only exit if you see smoke or there is a fire.
If you must exit due to a fire, carefully do the following:
- Cross your arms and make a clean jump out.
- Do not touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time.
- Make solid hops with your feet together as far away as you can.
- If you are unable to hop, shuffle away without lifting your feet.
- Do not return to the vehicle.
If you are near the scene:
- Do not approach the scene to help.
- Stay at least 50 feet away.
- Do not lean on or touch anything.
Never approach a downed power line or pole or a damaged pad-mounted transformer.